Using MOOCs in schools: how ten teachers piloted study groups to learn with their colleagues

This Teacher Academy pilot project, launched in 2019, sheds light on how online courses can be used more systematically at school level to support teachers’ professional development.

Since 2016, the School Education Gateway Teacher Academy has offered massive open online courses (MOOCs) to increase the accessibility of professional development and to facilitate communities of practice in which teachers can learn effectively from each other. MOOCs can reduce certain barriers that teachers face in accessing relevant professional development reported by the OECD TALIS survey 2018.

However, benefiting from MOOCs can be difficult for those with low levels of digital and self-regulated learning competence. Furthermore, MOOCs tend to consider only the learning of the participant within the course and offer a simple “certificate”. They are less concerned with what happens to that professional expertise afterwards and the career path of the learner.

In 2019 the Teacher Academy set out to address these challenges by working with teachers and schools to develop actions which can facilitate the integration and effective use of MOOCs at school level. Ten pilot teachers from across Europe trialled a number of actions to:

  • support school colleagues to use MOOCs for their professional learning,
  • develop mechanisms for transfer of learning on MOOCs into practice at school,
  • offer formal or informal recognition of learning happening on MOOCs.

In Italy, Portugal, Croatia, Romania, Spain and the Netherlands, the pilot teachers organised study groups and buddy schemes with school colleagues following a blended approach: face-to-face meetings took place in parallel with the online course to help teachers succeed on MOOCs and to discuss how to implement what has been learned in their classroom practice. Furthermore, the pilot school in Romania created a repository of resources and organised open doors lessons to implement what was learned during the courses and also to inspire other teachers to try out the MOOCs and experiment with new practices.

Study group

In some countries, the actions went beyond involving teachers at school level. For example, the Italian pilot teacher together with the regional department of education organised a face-to-face study group where teachers from the Emilia-Romagna region joined and learned using MOOCs in a blended way. In Spain, the pilot teacher succeeded in involving the Department of Education of the La Rioja region which has since then offered official accreditation to the region’s teachers completing Teacher Academy courses.

In other countries, like Germany, Ireland, and France, valuable lessons were learned about the challenges teachers still face in making use of MOOCs and other non-traditional learning formats for their professional development.

Project presentation

The outputs (ebooks and videos) produced by the following seven pilot teachers offer valuable insights and inspiration for all school staff who would like to make more effective use of MOOCs for teacher professional development by embedding their use at school or regional level:

The project is continuing throughout 2020 to consolidate what was achieved in the first year and to pilot new actions focussed on local and regional initiatives.

For more information about the pilot and its results, contact us here.


Naír CarreraNaír Carrera works as a Pedagogical Officer at European Schoolnet, where she coordinates European projects focusing on digital and innovative education, e-Learning and teacher training. Since 2018, she has managed the educational and pedagogical strand of the European Commission´s EU Code Week initiative.