This house believes that MOOCs can enhance the cross-institutional collaboration and European policies necessary to support refugee HE and employment

This Oxford debate is being conducted as part of the MOONLITE Project.

Join this Debate

Do you agree with the motion?

voted yes
voted no
71% 29%
70% 30%
73% 27%
68% 32%
69% 31%
67% 33%
66% 34%
66% 34%
66% 34%
68% 32%
68% 32%
68% 32%
63% 38%
63% 37%
63% 37%
63% 37%
63% 37%
63% 37%

The Result



Charlotte Traeger - Charlotte is a research associate, PhD student and the local coordinator of the project MOONLITE at the ESCP Europe in Berlin and has led an output on the possible pathways for the development of skills and knowledge of refugees and students via online learning to promote their access to the labor market and HEI.

Thank you, John and Caroline and to all the participants who made this debate so lively and interesting.

To the question of whether MOOCs can enhance the cross-institutional collaboration and European policies necessary to support refugee HE and employment 63% of the participants agreed, while 37% disagreed.

Practical recommendations for the use of MOOCs for refugees have been presented in this debate:

·       Firstly, when designing MOOC content it is crucial to take into account the social context of the targeted audience (language, education, background, needs). Specifically, a range of sociocultural, technological and pedagogical factors should be taking into account, as highlighted by Read, Sedano & Barcena (2018).

·       Secondly, refugees\’ learning experience should be improved by actively promoting a sense of social inclusion. This can be done through the provision of support and face-to-face guidance, which reinforce their social experience. For instance, blended learning methods have been presented as a promising way of addressing social inclusion needs (see e.g. Webinar from Divjak B., Röwert R., Mauer R., Tannhäuser A.C.)

·       Thirdly, teachers and volunteers supporting refugees should be familiarized with the use of online resources in order to exploit their full potential. The Erasmus+ project Reopen ( provides useful training tools to teach teaching staff to use online learning methods.

·       Fourthly, it is essential to ensure the open and inclusive character of MOOCs, for example by putting in place geographical and linguistic means.

Resonating with the arguments presented in this debate we encourage future initiatives to further explore how MOOCs can be used and developed to foster the inclusion of refugees into a new place of living. Specifically, it would be particularly useful to develop ways to certify the skills developed in MOOCs. While certifications and badges have been developed, there is still no official recognition in the labor market of the knowledge and skills developed through MOOCs. Similarly, we lack an understanding of the social experience of MOOC users and the means to measure MOOC success are still lacking.


Furthermore, as part of the MOONLITE project, we have been exploring the effectiveness of a cost-benefit analysis tool for institutions wishing to include MOOCs as part of their business model. The initial results of this work will be available shortly on the MOONLITE website:

Finally, most initiatives have approached the refugees as a homogenous group, we suggest the need for future research to further explore their uniqueness and develop tailored solutions for this cohort as a very diverse group of individuals (e.g. qualification, language, education). By placing refugees at the core of the design and development of MOOCs, we empower them to create their own MOOCs.



Read T., Sedano B. & Barcena E. 2018.Tailoring Language MOOC design for migrants and refugees. In T. Read, S. Montaner & B. Sedano [eds] Technological Innovation for Specialized Linguistic Domains: Languages for Digital Lives and Cultures Proceedings of TISLID’18. Mauritius: Éditions Universitaires Européennes, 383-396.



This debate has finished. Voting is now closed.
  1. Beatriz Sedano wrote:

    I totally agree with Sarah and Timothy when they say that open learning and MOOCs for displaced people should be targeted, blended and tailored to these people needs. Only in that way, can they be useful for them.
    HEIs need to work closely with support groups together with the students who are refugees and migrants, and make them feel that participation in a learning community could be an opportunity not only for learning skills or earning an official certificate which could be crucial for their legal processes and access to labour market), but an opportunity to be part of a community, to make contacts that can be helpful in their present or future, and to express themselves, to show their cultural and multilingual diversity.
    However, we have to be careful of not leaving any group behind: women, children, elderly, people in refugee camps…

    posted on: June 28, 2019 at 7:17 am
  2. Matthias wrote:

    This is a useful and constructive discussion and I agree to those who emphasize the chances offered by MOOCs. Aside from my comment below regarding recognition issues of MOOCs, I think another essential gap is how to measure the success of MOOCs for certain groups such as refugees. What are the actual benefits?

    posted on: June 27, 2019 at 3:18 pm
  3. Mahdieh Darvish wrote:

    Thank you for these very well presented arguments! There is for sure a need to support refugees in their experience at a local as well as more general level. This can be adressed by MOOCs being inclusive and easily accessible. Other aspects of learning such as the social experience can also be considered for future improvements.

    posted on: June 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm
  4. Ildiko Mazar wrote:

    Although I principally agree with the house, the opposition’s warnings are relevant and it’s good to see them being agreed with in @John Traxler’s rebuttal. While MOOCs *can* enhance cross-institutional collaboration and European policies to enable refugee integration (via facilitating better access to HE and/or employment), the mere existence of MOOCs alone is not a viable solution. (1) Being aware of the social context when designing content and delivery, (2) providing human support and guidance along the way, and (3) making the content accessible by various means (geographically, linguistically and technologically) are equally important prerequisites to exploit the full potential of MOOCs – even those that were purposefully developed for refugees.

    posted on: June 27, 2019 at 8:33 am
  5. John Traxler wrote:

    thanks for those recent comments and i think drawing them together that MOOCs do indeed provide our best hope, because the vagueness of the definitions and the diversity of implementations allow us to move towards variants customised for the specifics of the refugee situation and because we can exploit the visibility and momentum of the MOOC brand. Let’s not change bandwagons midstream, to mix metaphors

    posted on: June 27, 2019 at 8:32 am
  6. Timothy read wrote:

    When we started to consider the development of MOOCs for refugees, in the MOONLITE project, the first thing we did was to contact refugee support groups. They helped us, together with actual refugees they work with, to design, develop and deploy two courses. It was clear that not only general “support” and encouragement was required. They required a series of sociocultural, technological and pedagogic factors to be included in a course as part of its structure and scaffolding. This is an important finding, since we need to be careful when applying standard MOOCs to refugees, noting that they are not very popular, and concluding that they are not an effective teaching/learning tool for this social collective.

    posted on: June 27, 2019 at 8:17 am
  7. Alastair Creelman wrote:

    Thanks Caroline for linking to our OU /ReFER report from last year. That had a much wider scope than just MOOCs but showed that online resources in general had limited uptake among refugees unless they had support and encouragement. The teachers and volunteer staff of many refugee support groups had little or no training in using online resources and this makes their use even more limited. There is plenty potential for using MOOCs but many barriers to be overcome first.

    posted on: June 25, 2019 at 1:30 pm
  8. Caroline Kuhn wrote:

    The more I think about this the more I am convinced that there is a need to support refugees in the experience with MOOCs, in particular, as Sarah sais, those who are more vulnerable. There are structural barriers as the OU report about refugees and online learning resources suggest ( and we should focus on how those barriers can be overcome. It should be more about them.

    posted on: June 24, 2019 at 9:58 pm
  9. Sarah Lambert wrote:

    The evidence so far shows that MOOCs are useful for the already educated to update skills and from John’s opening comments I imagine that MOOCs could work very well for those refugees who already have an education and professional experience. I am less clear about the evidence of MOOCs for those refugees without a good education needing a foundational and/or civic/linguistic education. I believe that well designed blended learning programs using the inclusive rubrics John describes for online materials could be very useful for refugees but I’m not sure it is fair to label such a program a “MOOC” – particularly when my reading of research from the moonlight program suggests that it really is “MOOCs plus face to face learning” that makes the difference, because blended learning is key to ensure connections with locals and future employers. This is what Caroline calls the social learning experience and I do believe research backs the importance of this for those needing to engage with new local languages and new ways of living. Blended learning also enables refugees to get confident about additional online learning ie blended learning as an important step towards being able to use traditional MOOCs as self-study and skills development.

    posted on: June 24, 2019 at 9:00 pm
  10. John Traxler wrote:

    I understand and sympathise with many of the reservations about MOOCs, for example those about access, but feel progress can be made by improving and supporting current initiatives and aspirations rather than opposing or undermining them. The rhetoric and the ideals create the standards by which managers and policymakers can be held to account and pressure to improve. There is a risk that portraying the current defects and deficiencies as faults and failures jeopardises what has actually been achieved, part of which has been an understanding of MOOCS, irrespective of what that actually means, amongst a wider public.

    posted on: June 21, 2019 at 10:00 am
  11. Alastair Creelman wrote:

    I agree with Caroline that MOOCs in themselves do not enhance educational opportunities for refugees. It’s a much more complex issue. Access to relevant course material is useful only when combined with a community experience, often relying on local face-to-face contact where the issues can be discussed and new connections made. Refugees need to establish new social contacts and so online self-study is not an attractive option.
    I also disagree that today’s mainstream MOOCs are open and are certainly not examples of open educational resources. Most MOOC course material is strictly copyright and access is often closed after the end of the course. Some MOOC providers are now charging fees for basic access to the course.Tuition and certification are also optional extras but at a cost.
    Locally produced open online courses designed in cooperation with the target groups and supported by NGOs and other local organisations can certainly make a difference but these generally don’t go under the acronym MOOC.

    posted on: June 21, 2019 at 9:23 am
  12. Matthias wrote:

    In my opinion MOOCs offer many possibilities for refugees because they help overcoming, amongst others, distance, time and cost barriers. However, from my experience in European projects about open online learning, I see a huge challenge in the recognition of MOOCs, for instance, by other educational institutions or employers.

    posted on: June 21, 2019 at 7:16 am
  13. Rene Ceipek wrote:

    I think Moocs are a great opportunity to let disadvantaged people benefit from very relevant knowledge without a lot of resource input. For me the most relevant question is how the existing content can be made available to more people.

    posted on: June 20, 2019 at 4:03 pm
  14. Charlotte Traeger wrote:

    By working and opening up the debate on the use of MOOCs for social inclusion, it is indeed possible to move and promote the reflections and policies implemented at European level for greater social inclusion of displaced people. However, we can also question whether MOOCs should be ‘used’ in order to enhance cross-institutional collaboration and European policies? What should be the role(s) of MOOCs?

    posted on: June 20, 2019 at 2:53 pm
  15. Markus Bick wrote:

    Many thanks for this!
    Very well presented arguments!
    To step forward we defintely need to copnsider these…

    posted on: June 20, 2019 at 1:34 pm
  16. Welf Löwe wrote:

    I’ve agreed with “this house”. If I was to post a comment I’d write:

    Where is the data supporting the believes—in favor or against—beyond wishful thinking and anecdotal evidence?

    posted on: June 19, 2019 at 11:25 am
  17. Eric wrote:

    I first came accros the promise of open educational resources and free online education (whether called MOOCs or otherwise) to benefit ‘those left behind’ early this century when working on various education project in Africa, Latin America and Asia. At the time actively promoted by organizations like UNESCO, UNDP and Britisch Council.
    Then, OERs became hot in my home country of the Netherlands, with various state-sponsored initiatives to promote their creation, distribution and uptake by mainly teachers.
    During my sabbatical I developed and taught my own ‘SPOC avant la lettre’ for 40 teachers in developing countries, on the topic of ‘open’, and largely based on OERs. Very useful – especially for myself ….
    My conclusion is that over the past 20 years lots of time and money has been invested, with very limited uptake and actual benefits for the actual ‘end users’.
    This makes me wonder what is needed to realise the promise of ‘open’ for migrants and refugees, to do better this time? What have we done wrong, or what were the oversights over the past 20 years?
    Or are migrants and refugees just the next ‘problem’ the ‘solution of open’ is looking for?

    posted on: June 19, 2019 at 11:12 am
  18. Piet Henderikx wrote:

    It can definite support higher educational policies for refugees. MOOCs are still open and free and there are quite a lot which are suitable for refugees, e.g. language and culture courses.
    Governments can stimulate universities and NGO’s in their countries to promote access of refugees to MOOCs.
    They should stimulate and activate universities to develop institutional strategies and actions for making MOOCs better known and accessible for refugees.
    Even better was that they award refugees with ECTs points for MOOC or at least accept the study of MOOCs as EVC when entering a university (the Kiron model).
    Institutional collaboration can be implicit, recognizing each other MOOCs, or explicit by joint actions at the very concrete level, preferably with asylum centers and NGO’s.
    Nothing against making programs out of MOOCs and that special admission conditions are foreseen for refugees.

    posted on: June 19, 2019 at 10:58 am
  19. John Traxler wrote:

    i think in some senses we have already won this debate; MOOCs *can* make these enhancements. Now we must move on to ensure that MOOCs actually *do* make the enhancements. we must transform the possibility or rather the probability into the reality

    posted on: June 19, 2019 at 10:52 am
  20. Anthony F. Camilleri wrote:

    In this respect I think that not MOOCs are created equal. In particular for providing access to Higher Education, MOOCs that are furnished with a recognition tool such as ECTS, have a much better chance of giving value to the holder than other MOOCs, which might be considered as no better than reading a book.

    Evidence from even the leaders in the field such as Kiron only serves to point to the large disparity between what we hope MOOCs will enable and what they actually.

    Thus, my argument for the motion is that while they CAN support refugee Higher Education & Employment, in the large percentage of cases they currently DO NOT.

    To move from this aspirational phase to a practical phase would require a significant policy-investment, probably within the parameters of the Bologna Process, on micro-credentials recognition, so as to give institutions an easy way to supply valuable recognition to these innovative tools.

    posted on: June 19, 2019 at 9:27 am
  21. John Traxler wrote:

    i think we need to preserve the idea of openness as an ideal and an aspiration, one that everyone can understand, rather than get too fixated on the technical or legal distinctions. In that sense MOOCs are a brand leader, advertising the potential and the possibility of openness to an increasingly wide public, and this is clearly an advantage when working with people at the margins because the openness of MOOCs is easy to explain, easy to understand

    posted on: June 19, 2019 at 8:34 am
  22. Brenda Thomas wrote:

    It’s not accurate to say that MOOCs are OERs that are freely available to all. The openness of MOOCs means that anyone can enroll, whereas the openness of OERs is that they have an open license and are freely available (in their entirety) to anyone and everyone. MOOC platforms are moving away from free, complete access to all material and are now charging fees to people who want to take quizzes or do assignments.

    posted on: June 17, 2019 at 12:57 pm
  23. Timothy read wrote:

    Powerful arguments well presented on both sides of the proposition. Data obtained in the project show that inclusive MOOCs developed for refugees and migrants do obtain better dropout figures and more satisfied students than in standard MOOCs. As such, these courses have acted as a catalyst for cross-institutional collaboration within the scope of the project. The apparent effectiveness of such MOOCs could, in part, potentiate the development of educational policies at different social levels. However, is this scalable beyond the project scope and lifetime? It is also argued here that more than just MOOCs may be needed to sustain social interaction and educational development. There are also the costs of developing, running, and maintaining these courses. Is it reasonable to expect that MOOCs will really have a major impact on cross-institutional collaboration or educational policy development at national and international levels? This is going to be an interesting debate.

    posted on: June 17, 2019 at 8:20 am