1.   Background


In the pre-COVID world, the Fourth Industrial Revolution — enabled by “smart plus” and “internet plus” technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, augmented reality, blockchain, the Internet of Things, and automation — was the disruptive force behind many industries and sectors across the world, including education. Although educators discovered ample of opportunities with the age of internet and virtual interconnectivity, we also quickly realized that the world was dealing with a severe problem of digital divide and learning crisis, evidenced by high levels of learning poverty.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many of the existing challenges and has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 per cent of the world’s student population, up to 99 per cent in low and lower-middle income countries. Additionally, there is growing evidence that even the best distance learning solutions are weak substitutes for classroom interactions and millions of disadvantaged students may not return to school. In other words, progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) to achieve quality education and lifelong learning will slow, stagnate or even reverse.

Education is not only a fundamental human right, it is a global common good and a primary driver of progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a bedrock of just, equal, inclusive peaceful societies. Though the world is faced with a learning crisis, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes that “the future of education is here,” said during the launch of the Policy Brief: Education During COVID-19 and Beyond on August 4, 2020. “We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education. We can take a leap towards forward-looking systems that deliver quality education for all as a springboard for the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Preparing the ground for the Global MOOC Conference

Universities have always served as the lighthouse of human civilization, demonstrated their resilience throughout history as one of the oldest types of institutions in existence, surviving countless wars, crises, and challenges of all kinds. “If universities are to fulfil their mission to advance human development and expand the boundaries of knowledge, we must become more open, more integrative and more resilient.

Infectious diseases know no boundaries and certainly have no nationality. In the face of this common challenge for humanity, universities once again proved their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic by adjusting teaching and learning models and playing an irreplaceable role supporting global health by understanding the virus and developing vaccines and treatment in a short span of time, and through these efforts will make humanity better prepared for future health crises. Universities of the future will likely be more integrative and will continue to break through physical borders, disciplinary barriers, technological limitations, and identity constraints, and seamlessly connect with societies, governments, NGOs and industries.

At this critical moment, universities should play an essential role in promoting confidence, trust and unity among people and collectively call for humanity to rise to its highest potential. Despite the uncertainties and profound challenges that humanity faces such as global health emergencies, climate change, economic volatility, social inequality, and ecological degradation, there remains hope for a brighter future.

2012 marked an explosive year for MOOC, and the worldwide phenomenon was eventually declared as “the year of the MOOC.” After almost a decade later, during the pandemic outbreak in 2020, educators are once again reminded the power and the potential of MOOC, as online education are bursting into the mainstream media. At the same time, many questions were raised, such as, What is the future of the MOOC model? How will such online learning platforms evolve to better serve the mission of higher education? How best integrate online technology and higher education?

2. Organizers — and their experience in MOOC & online education

Tsinghua University

Actively promoting online education has been a key part of Tsinghua University’s strategic plan. In 2013, Tsinghua University launched xuetangX, and since then, the MOOC platform has become the largest in China and one of the largest in the World. In April 2020, the platform launched its international version which has an English language interface. The decision aims to actively gather high-quality educational resources from the world-leading universities and institutions for meeting the urgent needs of students and teachers around the world who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

During Spring 2020, in response to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, Tsinghua has undergone a rapid institutional transformation — from a traditional classroom teaching model to a university-wide fully online model. Subsequently, Tsinghua has worked throughout Summer 2020 to upgrade its infrastructure in order to prepare for another transformation — from fully online to hybrid teaching and learning.

The 2020 pandemic will indeed have a profound impact on global higher education. Tsinghua University is committed to work together with the wider community to overcome difficulties, continue to explore new teaching methods and models, promote the effective use of open educational resources, and lead the sustainable development of global higher education and online education.

UNESCO IITE (UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education)

In line with the new Education 2030 Agenda, IITE has developed its strategic priority areas to meet new demands and tasks ahead. The mission of IITE in the new era is promoting the innovative use of ICT and serving as facilitator and enabler for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) through ICT-enabled solutions and best practices. Bearing in mind that SDG 4 highlights inclusion and equityquality of education and lifelong learning, IITE focuses its activities on the following strategic priorities:

  • Facilitating the innovative use of ICT to enhance inclusion and equity in education and lifelong learning;
  • Empowering teachers in Member States to improve the quality of education by promoting ICT-enabled pedagogies and best practices;
  • Fostering the potential of ICT for education transformation through global dialogue and networking.

In promoting digital pedagogy, IITE works with policy-makers, civil society and various other stakeholders, drawing on its own research and existing research evidence, focusing on how pedagogical and technological innovations can enhance learning. IITE exerts efforts to facilitate the transfer of innovation research into educational practice and support effective learning through ICT-enabled pedagogy. The Institute promotes innovative approaches, methodology, tools and techniques of integrating ICT and pedagogy into different levels and sectors of education, in particular higher education and TVET.

Over the twenty years since its foundation, IITE has accumulated rich expertise and experience in promoting ICT in education, with strong support and guidance from UNESCO Headquarters, UNESCO IITE Governing Board and the host country.

3. Theme: “Learning Revolution and Higher Education Transformation”

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, governments, teachers, and students have led and participated in an online education experiment of unprecedented scale and scope. Using MOOC (massive open online courses), OER (open educational resources) and other online learning tools, schools and universities were able to continue providing education, largely undisrupted, although most campuses were closed. While different level of education faces its distinctive challenges, higher education is unique in that university students are both old enough to handle the pressure and rigours of online work, while at the same time technologically savvy enough to navigate new online tools and platforms. Therefore, the higher education segment likely ends up, by necessity, triggering a “learning revolution.”

International organizations also played a crucial role throughout the COVID-19 education disruption. For example, in March 2020, UNESCO launched the Global Education Coalition, a multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need worldwide for continuity of learning on an unprecedented scale, by monitoring global school closures and provide distance learning solutions and recommendations. Governments, higher education institutions, and relevant stakeholders around the world were also prompt to mobilize resources for developing effective responses; coordinate action for maximizing impact and sustainable support to teachers and communities; further increase access of MOOC and online learning platforms for matching on-the-ground needs with local and global solutions; leverage hi-tech, low tech, and no tech approaches for providing diverse quality education programs and learning services.

As a result of individual efforts and collective actions across sectors and stakeholders, higher education has witnessed how MOOC, OER and online education have led a movement of “higher education transformation” during the crisis, and these transformative “bold steps” will no doubt help to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.

Sub-theme 1: “Learning Revolution” for MOOC Platforms

This sub-theme is co-chaired and co-organized by iCourse and xuetangX — two of the largest MOOC and online learning platforms in China. As identified, MOOC, OER, and related online learning tools are integral to the “learning revolution,” therefore, this sub-theme aims to review MOOC development in the past, and come to consensus regarding the role of MOOC platforms in “learning revolution”, as well as to conclude experience and share vision as we look beyond the pandemic.

Sub-theme 2: “Higher Education Transformation” with Virtual Simulation

This sub-theme is chaired and organized by ilab-x (Virtual Simulation Experiment Teaching Innovation Alliance). Throughout school closures during the pandemic outbreak, lab courses and practical classes have been one of the most common challenges in higher education. This sub-theme aims to discuss some of the challenges faced, while sharing experience from around the world before forming possibilities of how higher education can better use pioneering technology, such as virtual simulation, as we envision the future of “higher education transformation.”

Sub-theme 3: Global “Higher Education Transformation” for Inclusion and Equity

This sub-theme is chaired and organized by UNESCO-ICHEI (International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO), which recently launched the IIOE (International Institute of Online Education) in April 2020. As highlighted by numerous addresses from UN agencies and development partners, global collaboration is critical in achieving SDG 4. This sub-theme aims to reach consensus through reviewing our progress, share experiences as we find ways to overcome challenges, and create a global vision through “higher education transformation” that ensures inclusive, equitable, quality education and lifelong learning.

Sub-theme 4: “Learning Revolution” for Better University Education

This sub-theme is chaired and organized by Steering Committee on Digitalized Teaching and Pedagogical Innovation under the MOE, People’s Republic of China. This sub-theme recognizes “learning revolution” requires strong and resilient leadership from universities. Therefore, this sub-theme aims to engage stakeholders across universities to review past actions and share experiences, while discussing the possible future and role of universities in promoting this wave of “learning revolution.”

4. Conference Objective & Expected Outcome

In response to the “emergency for global education” as recently described by the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, as well as the global educational challenges and opportunities presented by the age of internet and virtual interconnectivity, the Global MOOC Conference aims to bring together world-leading universities and online education platforms across all geographical regions at this unprecedented time.

Additionally, the Conference aims to:

  • promote MOOC development and online education good practices and resources,
  • explore the role of technology in shaping the future of higher education,
  • encourage international cooperation on educational technology innovation, and
  • raise awareness for the inclusion and equity in education for achieving the UN SDG4.

During the Conference, two other expected outcomes include:

  • launch the Global MOOC Alliance, and
  • release the “2020 Beijing Declaration of MOOC Development” outcome document

Global MOOC Alliance

Global MOOC Alliance is a small and diverse group of world-leading universities and online education platforms across all geographical regions that will serve as a mechanism for exchange and cooperation, providing leadership of global higher education efforts to address digital education challenges and to implement practical policies in local communities and around the world. Key activities include joint teaching, capacity building, knowledge sharing, and public advocacy (UN SDG 4).

2020 Beijing Declaration of MOOC Development

Before the Conference, input will be collected through online consultations and submissions on the draft outcome document. This document covers the consensus, experience, and vision regarding MOOC development and online education during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. These inputs will then be fed into the Conference’s four sub-forums through thematic discussions, where participants will further review and consolidate the Declaration before the final presentation by the end of the Conference.

Furthermore, the 2020 Beijing Declaration of MOOC Development is expected to send a strong signal to underscore the commitment of high-level decision-makers and prominent personalities to put MOOC development and online education at the heart of the movement for “Learning Revolution and Higher Education Transformation” and beyond.

5. Provisional Agenda

The Global MOOC Conference will consist of a main conference (high-level segment), a sub-forum, and related events (hosted by other organizations).

Main Conference

1. The main conference is expected to launch the Global MOOC Alliance, and to adopt the 2020 Beijing Declaration on MOOC Development. Representatives of international organizations, MOOC platforms, universities, and the ministry of education will be invited to deliver presentations and remarks on MOOC development and online education.

11 December 2020Main Conference (high-level segment)
Moscow: 15:00-15:10
Beijing: 20:00-20:10
Opening: introduce conference theme, opening video
Moscow: 15:10-15:45
Beijing: 20:10-20:45
High-level opening addresses
by conference co-host:
QIU Yong. President, Tsinghua University
by international organizations:
Stefania Giannini. Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
Andreas Schleicher. Director for Education and Skills, OECD
by host-country’s MOE:
CHEN Baosheng. Minister of Education, People’s Republic of China
Moscow: 15:45-16:00
Beijing: 20:45-21:00
Official launch of the Global MOOC Alliance
David Leebron. President, Rice University
• Representative(s) of Global MOOC Alliance
Moscow: 16:00-16:15
Beijing: 21:00-21:15
Official reading of the 2020 Beijing Declaration on MOOC Development.
Tao Zhan. Director, UNESCO IITE
Moscow: 16:15-16:30
Beijing: 21:15-21:30
Live demonstration of synchronous teaching using virtual reality
(Microfluidic Chip Technology for the Detection of Space Bacteria)
• from four locations across South Korea and China.
Moscow: 16:30-17:25
Beijing: 21:30-22:25
Keynote addresses (6 speakers, 8 minutes each);
Statements and presentations on MOOC Development and Online Education
by an international organization:
Svetlana Knyazeva. Unit Chief for Digital Pedagogy and Learning Materials (DPLM), UNESCO IITE
by a MOOC platform:
Anant Agarwal. Founder and CEO, edX
by universities in Europe, Americas, and Africa
Nikolay Kropachev. Rector, Saint Petersburg University
Ennio Vivaldi. President, University of Chile
Stephen Kiama. Vice-Chancellor, University of Nairobi
by a ministry of education:
WU Yan. Director of the Higher Education Department under the MOE, People’s Republic of China
Moscow: 17:25-17:30
Beijing: 22:25-22:30


2. The sub-forums will review the recommended priority actions of the 2020 Beijing Declaration of MOOC Development through thematic discussions and consolidate the Declaration to be presented to the main conference (high-level segment).

9 December 2020

Opening address and setting the scene

Moscow: 12:00-12:05
Beijing: 17:00-17:05

• Tao Zhan. Director, UNESCO IITE

9 December 2020

Theme 1: “Learning Revolution” for MOOC Platforms
Co-organized by Tsinghua University, XuetangX, iCourse

Moscow: 12:05-12:10
Beijing: 17:05-17:10

Opening address
• YANG Bin. Vice President & Provost, Tsinghua University

Moscow: 12:10-12:40
Beijing: 17:10-17:40

Keynote presentations
"Speaking from personal perspectives and experiences, how MOOC and online technology have driven or/and can potentially drive a Learning Revolution?"
· SHI Jinghuan. Professor and the Chair of the Academic Committee of the Institute of Education, Tsinghua University
· George Siemens. "MOOC creator and pioneer." Director of the LINK Research Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington; Co-Director of the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L), University of South Australia
· Gideon Shimshon. Associate Principal Digital Learning and Director of QM Online at Queen Mary University of London
· François Taddei. Director, CRI (Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity)

Moscow: 12:40-13:20
Beijing: 17:40-18:20

Panel discussion by MOOC platforms and institutions
“The past, present and future of MOOC and online education platform”
(Listed alphabetically by platform)
· FutureLearn. David Granzow, APAC Director
· iCourse (also called China University MOOC). HAN Jun, Deputy Director
· ThaiMOOC. Jintavee Khlaisang, Deputy Director
· UMOOCs. XU Yijie, CCO
· XuetangX. WANG Shuaiguo, President

Moscow: 13:20-14:35
Beijing: 18:20-18:35

Closing and wrap up
· WANG Libing. Chief, Section for Educational Innovation and Skills Development (EISD), UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education

9 December 2020

Theme 2: “Higher Education Transformation” with Virtual Simulation
Co-organized by ilab-x (Virtual Reality Experiment Teaching Innovation Alliance)

Moscow: 15:00-15:15
Beijing: 20:00-20:15

Forum Opening & Opening addresses
· LI Wenxin. Professor, Peking University
· WANG Xiqin. Professor, Executive Vice President, Tsinghua University

Moscow: 15:15-16:50
Beijing: 20:15-21:50

Keynote addresses (8 speakers, 8 minutes each)
· Johanna Pirker. Associate Professor, Graz University of Technology
· HUANG Ronghuai. Professor , Beijing Normal University
· Mina Johnson. Professor, Arizona State University
· James Birt. Associate Professor, Bond University
· FAN Wenhui. Professor, Tsinghua University
· Agostino G·Bruzzone. Professor, Genoa University
· CAI Yiyu. Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University
· QIN Jingyan. Professor,University of Science and Technology

Moscow: 16:50-17:20
Beijing: 21:50-22:20

Introduction for competition items of Intelligent Connected Vehicle and Flight Vehicle Design and Simulation
· JIANG Yongheng. Associate Professor, Tsinghua University
· LIU Hu. Professor, Beihang University

Moscow: 17:20-17:25
Beijing: 22:20-22:25

Forum Closing
· LI Wenxin. Professor, Peking University

10 December 2020

Theme 3: Global “Higher Education Transformation” for Inclusion and Equity
Co-organized by UNESCO-ICHEI (International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO), and IIOE (International Institute of Online Education)

Moscow: 12:00-12:45
Beijing: 17:00-17:45

Session 1: Keynote Speech
Chair: ZHAO Jianhua. Professor and Deputy Director, Center for Higher Education Research, Southern University of Science and Technology

· MIAO Fengchun.
Chief, Unit for Technology and Artificial Intelligence in Education, UNESCO
· LI Ming. Professor and Director, International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO
· LIM Cherping. Chief Expert of IIOE, International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO, Chair Professor, The Education University of Hong Kong
· Diana Laurillord. Professor, Learning with Digital Technologies, UCL Knowledge Lab
· ZHANG Dongxiao. Vice-President and Provost, Southern University of Science and Technology

Moscow: 12:45-13:50
Beijing: 17:45-18:50

Session 2: MOOCs in Asia and Africa
Chair: MIAO Fengchun. Chief, Unit for Technology and Artificial Intelligence in Education, UNESCO

· Moustafa Hassan. Professor and Vice Chancellor, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, UAE
· Melinda dP. Bandalaria. Professor and Chancellor, University of Philippines - Open University, Philippines
· ZHENG Qinghua. Professor and Vice President, Xi'an Jiaotong University, China
· Zaidatun Tasir. Professor and Dean, Faculty of Social Science & Humanities, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia
· Tariq Naeem. Rector, Virtual University of Pakistan, Pakistan
· LOBO Laby Clément. Specialist in communication studies, University of Côte d'Ivoire; Deputy Director of technopedagogy, Virtual University of Côte d'Ivoire

Moscow: 13:50-14:00
Beijing: 18:50-19:00

Session 3: Round Table and Discussion (Q&A)
Chair: ZHAN Tao. Director, UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education

· WU Bo. Director, the Division of Development and Operation Management for Open and Online Course, Higher Education Press. Director of iCourse
· SUN Kezhou. Vice President, XuetangX
· Tariq Naeem. Rector, Virtual University of Pakistan, Pakistan
· LOBO Laby Clément. Specialist and Deputy Director of techno-pedagogy, Virtual University of Côte d'Ivoire
· WU Lintuo. Talent Ecosystem Development Department, Huawei Enterprise Business Group

10 December 2020

Theme 4: “Learning Revolution” for Better University Education
Co-organized by Steering Committee on Digitalized Teaching and Pedagogical Innovation under the MOE, People’s Republic of China

Moscow: 15:00-15:30
Beijing: 20:00-20:30

Keynote Session 1: Strategies and Experiences of Online Education and MOOCs
Chair: XU Xiaofei. Harbin Institute of Technology, China

Keynote 1: The practice, policies and experiences of MOOCs and online education by Chinese universities during and after the COVID-2019
· YANG Zongkai (Xidian University, China)

Keynote 2: The strategies, practice and experiences of MOOCs and online education in UK and Europe
· Danielle George (The University of Manchester, UK)

Keynote 3: Open education development in Mongolia and Mongolian University of Science and Technology
· Ganbat Danaa (Mongolian University of Science and Technology, Mongolia)

Moscow: 15:30-16:00
Beijing: 20:30-21:00

Keynote Session 2: The Best Practice and Experiences of Online Education and MOOCs
Chair: SUN Maosong
. Tsinghua University, China

Keynote 4: The practice and experiences of Chinese university MOOC associations: To promote development and learning revolution of universities in China
· XU Xiaofei (Harbin Institute of Technology, China)

Keynote 5: We learned more about online learning in six months of 2020 than six years before
· John Mitchell (Stanford University, USA)

Keynote 6: Nurturing collaboration between universities and industry to boost AI online education
· WU Fei (Zhejiang University, China)

Moscow: 16:00-16:50
Beijing: 21:00-21:50

Panel Session: Global Collaboration of Online Education in the New Normal Status after COVID-19
Chair: LI Xiaoming. Peking University, China

• Higher online educational actions against the COVID-2019
• Global development and shared applications of online educational resources and MOOCs
• Standardization of online education and MOOCs
• Intelligent online education technology and applications
• Roles of teachers and students in practice of MOOCs and online education
• Online learning revolution and innovation

· SUN Maosong (Tsinghua University, China)
· LI Liwen (Beijing Foreign Studies University, China)
· Yves Ducq (University of Bordeaux, France )
· Atilla Incecik (University of Strathclyde, UK)
· Jeeheon Ryu (Chonnam National University, South Korea)
· Johnson Ireri Kinyua (University of Nairobi, The Republic of Kenya)

Moscow: 16:50-17:00
Beijing: 21:50-22:00

· Chair: XU Xiaofei (Harbin Institute of Technology, China)

(… more details to come soon, stay tune!)