Anka Mulder


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Welcome Alumni TU Delft – never stop learning

Professional Online LearningIn a previous blog ‘making life long learning a success with MOOCs’ I wrote about bridging the gap between what professionals need and what universities offer. Technology, the economy and jobs are subject to constant change. That is one reason why our campus education is adapting. For example, topics such as Cybersecurity, Big Data or the Circular Economy were not part of our programmes some years ago; now they are. And people already in jobs need to update their knowledge to stay relevant and employable. Continuous development is important for everybody and certainly for engineers. This is why some years ago TU Delft included professional education and life long learning in its mission.

A university’s job does not finish when a student graduates at age 23 or 24, we believe at TU Delf. We also want to contribute to the careers of our alumni and other working professionals in science, design and engineering. To provide training and education for professionals we have set up the TU Delft Extension School, which offers a wide variety of online courses in the fields of aerospace engineering, leadership, sustainable energy, water management, responsible innovation, design and architecture and much more. Some of our courses are about new developments in a specific domain to keep you up to date in your field. And if you want to broaden your knowledge and expertise: we also offer interdisciplinary courses. In our online courses you can participate in discussions with our professors, watch short and relevant course videos, do assignments, and discuss course content with other professionals.

Watch on Youtube 

Almost 1,5 million learners in MOOCs have found us in the last two and a half years and over one thousand in professional education courses have already taken up the opportunity of learning online with us. We feel that we have a special relation with and obligation to our alumni.

Therefore I dedicate this blog to you. Are you one of our alumni? We want to better connect with you. Tell us what your or your company’s education and training needs are. And we would like to learn from you too.

We are all learners for life. I hope that the word ‘alumnus’ will not exist any longer five years from now. Wouldn’t it be great to have you all as active members of the TU Delft learning community forever? Find out more about our online professional education: or send us a message.

Never stop learning.

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Kids and coding

I attended an event on coding skills in primary and secondary education, organised by FutureNL. About 100 dedicated people from business and education, most of them passsionate volunteers, got together to discuss how we can make sure that programming skills will become part of education in the Netherlands. Prince Constantijn and former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes were present as ambassadors of FutureNL.

At TU Delft, many bachelor and master programmes already include programming,  but not all our students learn how to code. That is why we decided that from 2018 on coding and compuational thinking will become a compulsory part of all our students’ education.

But coding is not something only for engineers. A few years from now almost everybody will need digital skills in his or her work. For some a basic understanding and being able to work with standard sotfware will be sufficient. Many people, however, will need much more in their jobs. They will be the ones who will work in the rapidly growing IT sector, the ones who create the new digital world.

Understanding that digital world will be increasingly important in our daily life as well. During the FutureNL event Neelie Kroes said that if we don’t act a divison in society will evolve between the digital haves and have-nots, those who understand the digital world and those who do not and feel left out. So digital skills and understanding are important for all children.

Many parents, employers, schools and teachers agree. Organisations such as CodeUur have developed free materials for primary schools and many volunteers have offered their services to schools. What is lacking is a clear national policy. Unlike many countries (see the map below), programming and ompuational thinking are no compulsary part of primary or secondary education in the Netherlands.  The Netherlands should follow the example of countries such as Portugal, the UK and Poland and prepare our children better for their future.

Coding in Europe

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2017: the Year of Open

1701 TU Delft Year of Open Banner-2

Our university embraced “open” many years ago, making scientific knowledge accessible online to all levels of society free of charge. To name a few, in 2007 we started sharing educational resources as OpenCourseWare. In 2014 we started an innovation programme around Open & Online Education and we have created many MOOCs since, with over 1,3 million learners participating. And in 2016 we initiated our OpenScience programme overarching open education and research, leading to the formulation of the open access policy and the creation of a data framework policy (in other words, policy for research data management). Now, in 2017, the year that the Open Education Consortium has declared ‘The Year of Open’, we are taking another step forward. In the TU Delft Year of Open we will organise activities to raise awareness among scientists, lecturers, administrators, and students about the importance of open science.

This year, there will be another full open science programme that you too can take part in. Examples include the Open Education Week in March, the launch of the open science course in June, the ten-year anniversary of OpenCourseWare, and the Open Access Week in October.

So keep your eyes and ears open and regularly check the website for all the interesting activities that will happen as part of The Year of Open.

A global perspective

The Year of Open is a global focus on open processes, systems, and tools, created through collaborative approaches, that enhance our education, businesses, governments, and organisations, organised by the Open Education Consortium. Open as a mindset about the way we should meet collective needs and address challenges.

Communities around the world are bringing open practices to many different fields, such as open source software, open government, open data, and of course open education. Open represents freedom, transparency, equity and participation. When something is openly created and released, the intent is for others to use it, contribute to its development and make it better for everyone, whether that’s adding more features or information, or finding errors and fixing them (source). Learn more about the global Year of Open.

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Education Award for Arno Smets


Arno Smets, one of TU Delft’s first MOOC makers, received a prestigious international award today at the edX Global Forum 2016 in Paris as best MOOC teacher: the edX Prize for Exceptional Contributions to Online Teaching and Learning. It was the first time this prize was awarded. From 850 MOOC teachers and 11 nominees Arno was chosen as number one.

EdX CEO and MIT professor Anant Argawal: “Arno’s MOOC on Solar Energy is extensive and challenging, while at the same time developed for students of all levels. The course provides an important contribution to a more sustainable world and has already reached 150.000 learners. This shows his dedication, and also Edx’s, to make education accessible to all”.

TU Delft is very proud of Arno’s accomplishment and those of his colleagues. Their research and education in Photovoltaics (PV) had already given TU Delft an excellent reputation in this field, and through this MOOC this knowledge is now accessible to a worldwide audience. And most of all, Arno is a super enthusiastic and fantastic teacher. Want to see for yourself why Arno won? Check this: MOOC Solar Energy.

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Dutch Universities Go Open


This week a majority of universities in the Netherlands agreed on a statement that they will promote open education.  The Open Coalition consists of: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Universiteit Twente, Universiteit Utrecht, Wageningen Universiteit, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Open Universiteit, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Universiteit Maastricht, and of course my own institution, Technische Universiteit Delft. There is a good chance that a number of universities of applied sciences will join soon. As far as I know, we are the first country where universities take such a step.

Of course this is only a start. They key factor to success is that we facilitate our lecturers, provide them with technical assistance and advice on, for example, copy rights. And we need good examples. A group of lecturers have decided to do just that: mathematics teachers from the four technical universities (Delft, Eindhoven, Twente and Wageningen) have joined forces. They will develop open mathematics materials that can be used by our own teachers and students and those at other universities worldwide.

Here is a translation of the statement:

Open Education We believe that open education will contribute to improving the quality of our education. Open education encourages peer learning among our teaching staff and gives students access to a richer learning environment.

As public universities we see open education as part of the wider open science movement (i.e. open access publishing, open data and open source software), which our institutions support.

What will we do? By taking part in this Open Coalition we declare that we will cooperate in a joint programme of universities, universities of applied sciences, SURF and the Ministry of Education to increase the sharing and reuse of higher education digital learning materials of our teaching staff. We will develop a shared policy and strengthen a culture among our institutions and staff to publish learning materials under an open license and reuse those materials.

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Numerus Fixus TU Delft

Een numerus fixus aan de TU Delft – kan dat? Op een familiefeestje onlangs zei een nicht (studente aan een universiteit aan de andere kant van het land) dat ze daar wel begrip voor had. Als je niet voldoende wetenschappelijk personeel of onderwijszalen hebt bij een bepaalde opleiding, of opeens veel meer studenten bijvoorbeeld. Onzin, vond een oom (lang geleden afgestudeerd), Nederland heeft ingenieurs nodig, dus aan de bak: bijbouwen, hoogleraren en docenten aannemen en alle studenten toelaten.

Deze discussie beschrijft heel aardig het dilemma van de numerus fixus aan de TU Delft. Niemand is gelukkig met een numerus fixus, een begrenzing van de instroom van nieuwe studenten:  de studenten niet, de werkgevers, de politiek en ik al zeker niet. Waarom is die er dan toch bij een aantal opleidingen?

Nederland heeft de afgelopen tien jaar flink ingezet op het werven van jongeren voor technische beroepen en opleidingen. Nederland, maar ook andere landen, zien kennis en de toepassing daarvan als motor voor de economie. Ingenieurs spelen daarin een belangrijke rol. Daarnaast zijn technologie en innovatie onmisbaar bij de aanpak van grote maatschappelijk opgaven rondom zorg, duurzame energie en veiligheid.

Bij de TU Delft zien we dat die campagnes vruchten afwerpen. In tien jaar tijd steeg de studenteninstroom met 50%.  Die stijging gold voor de hele universiteit. Hij was echter niet geleidelijk, maar verliep met flinke pieken, eerst bij de bachelor opleidingen Bouwkunde en Industrieel Ontwerpen, later bij bijvoorbeeld Luchtvaart- en Ruimtevaarttechnologie en Werktuigbouwkunde.

Ook elders is de groeiende belangstelling voor technische opleidingen zichtbaar. Het aantal scholieren dat voor een bètastudie kiest, is hoger dan ooit en dat is goed. De enorme toeloop van studenten dwingt de technische universiteiten echter tegelijkertijd om na te denken over maatregelen als numeri fixi, want kwaliteit blijven bieden is nog belangrijker dan zoveel mogelijk studenten toelaten. Mensen als de topman van ASML zijn hier fel tegenstander van en dat is is begrijpelijk. Want wie gaat dan straks die tienduizenden vacatures vervullen die nog open staan in technische beroepen?

Afgestudeerden van de technische universiteiten zijn zeer gewild bij deze multinationals. Dat komt onder meer omdat Nederlandse ingenieurs al tijdens hun opleiding leren samenwerken in projecten aan realistische problemen uit de beroepspraktijk. Ook de koppeling van het onderzoek aan het onderwijs is een belangrijke factor. De resultaten zijn overal zichtbaar, ook in zoiets als de World Solar Challenge, een studentenwedstrijd voor wagens op zonne-energie. Het kan toch geen toeval zijn dat dat tegenwoordig haast een Nederlands onderonsje is? In 2015 won het Delftse team maar net van Twente in de Challenge-klasse, terwijl Eindhoven de Cruiser-klasse voor haar rekening nam. Er is volgens mij dus geen probleem met de kwaliteit. Wel met de kwantiteit.

Kijken we naar aantallen afgestudeerden met een bèta- of techniekopleiding, dan staan we binnen Europa op een schamele 26e plaats met 2,8 per 1.000 inwoners. Een land als Zwitserland, waar de onderwijskwaliteit ook hoog is, heeft er 5 per 1.000 inwoners. Dat moeten wij in Nederland toch kunnen evenaren? Er is overigens nog een ander verschil met Zwitserland: de investeringen in het technologisch hoger onderwijs liggen daar vier keer zo hoog.

Ondertussen leiden we aan de technische universiteiten steeds meer studenten op, terwijl de financiering per student achterblijft. Tot nu toe lukt dat nog, zolang we die stijging met behulp van numerus fixi enigszins kunnen reguleren. In Delft hebben we die momenteel bij drie bacheloropleidingen: Industrieel Ontwerpen, Luchtvaart- en Ruimtevaarttechnologie en Klinische Technologie. Bij deze opleidingen groeide de belangstelling van aankomende studenten explosief.

Een numerus fixus doen we niet met plezier, maar bij uitzondering: de fixus laat ons toe om te zorgen voor voldoende docenten, onderwijsruimte, studieplekken en andere voorzieningen, zodat we de kwaliteit van de opleidingen hoog kunnen houden.



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Open Education Seminar: Next steps for Open Education

TU Delft started sharing Open Educational resources back in 2007. Now, TU Delft Open Education has matured in such a way that we are ready to take the next step: offering credits for MOOCs.

As I mentioned before, offering credits for MOOCs is a big step for brick and mortar universities.

Currently TU Delft aims at setting up an alliance with several international partners, like the University of Queensland, the University of British Columbia, EPFL, Rice University and Australian National University. Their shared ambition is to recognize and integrate MOOCs in (formal) campus education. This would mean that in the future any student registered at one of the partner universities can take any MOOC offered by these universities and be awarded formal Credits for it.

Please join us at the Open Education Seminar (March 10th, 14:00h, TU Delft campus)! During the Seminar:

  • We will share our vision on the next steps in Open Education, supported by our alliance partners.
  • The opening presentation will be followed by a range of guest speakers who will share their experience and ideas about bringing Open Education closer to formal education, leading to an increase in quality of learning for our students.
  • The Seminar will be closed with a debate, where everyone present can share his or her opinion and vision.

I would like to invite all who are interested to join the seminar. Please register here. Visit the website to learn more about the program and guest speakers.

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Will universities be the Uber of Higher Education?

Since the first MOOCs went online three years ago,  there have been many publications about their effects: would MOOCs increase access to higher education to new groups of students or not, would they lead to innovation in education or were they old didactics gone digital, and would MOOCs be the end of the university?

Universities will still be around 10 or 20 years from now, but there are developments we should be aware of. One of them is that digitisation has created enormous possibilities for data brokering and brokers in higher education, a development we are already witnessing in many sectors (see for example: The Uberfication of Everything).

Let’s have a look at the two most often mentioned examples: Uber in the taxi world and AirBnB for hotels. Both companies were set up only a few years ago and they have become very successful. There are some funny things about both of them. They don’t have hotels and don’t own taxis, but they own the data. They also don’t employ hotel workers or taxi drivers (people who work via them are paid per job), but they do employ data specialists. Uber and AirBnB have become the very successful brokers in the taxi and hotel world.

ubersMany people claim  that the hotel or taxi business is very different from higher education. But is that true? Or will higher education have a broker as well and will we – academics, managers, support staff – be its taxi drivers?

Another interesting data broker is LinkedIn. It already has access to tons of information, which we have given to LinkedIn on a voluntary basis. Name, education, professional background and interests, connections, skills and endorsements. It recently bought online learning company Lynda. It has also acquired Bright, which makes algorithms to match jobs and candidates. LinkedIn connects students with universities (LinkedIn helps students find a university), students with jobs (LinkedIn helps students find a job) and universities with alumni (LinkedIn helps university connect with alumni). What if, in the future, it does not connect anybody with your university or mine?

Universities have the content, students and data, so perhaps they needn’t worry. Some people believe that they should and universities should have the ambition to become the broker themselves, not let the Uberfication of higher education happen. But how good, user friendly or fast are universities with big data compared to companies like Amazon or Trip Advisor? From the perspective of professionalism in data management even dating services have a better chance of becoming the broker of higher education than universities do.

If we see the Uberfication of higher edcation as a real possibility, is there something we should or could do about it? One possibility is to develop data expertise ourselves, alone or as universities together: understand how to use our data better, personalise education, professionalise education services, especially online. Or perhaps we should work together with those who are much better at this already. Be realistic about what we do well and what we don’t.

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Education Day 4 November

I my blog earlier this week I mentioned that TU Delft will invest extra in education this year. Step one is the additional investment of 6 million Euro in education. At present we are discussing faculty plans with deans, directors of education and the student council. Step two is the TU Delft Education Day

The TU Delft Education Day will take place on 4 November from 14.00h to 18.30h 2015. Teachers can learn about new possibilities to develop themselves and their education, get inspired on how to further improve their course, find out what really drives students and meet colleagues from all TU Delft faculties. Interested? Watch Rob Mudde’s video message below and  register here.






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How to do more and less administration or: the ambidextrous organisation

The changes at universities and in their surroundings have had an effect on the life of academics. But how about the hundreds of people in the support staff at every university? I believe that support services have to strengthen their administrations and become less administrative at the same time.

Universities were set up as teaching institutions initially. In the last century, when many companies dismantled their R&D centres, research moved to universities and became a strong second second pillar of a university. Nowadays, universities have gained yet another function and are also seen as important drivers of regional economic growth and innovation, transferring knowledge to business, attracting talent and companies.

So universities acquired more roles. They also got more students. When student numbers grew, so did government spending on higher education, and governments placed a stronger focus on transparency, efficiency and accountability. For universities and their staff, this meant more administrative duties, accounting for how they spent their money, organised quality assurance, dealt with ethics and integrity, etc. Universities administrations grew and professionalized as a consequence.

Other recent developments included growing competition over research funding, management of research projects, the introduction of online education, technology transfer between universities and business, and innovation in pedagogy.

These changes have had different effects on the work of support staff. To help a university with its innovation process is something completely different than running an efficient and accountable administration with operational excellence. The first type of organisation rocks the boat, the other operates a ship steady as she goes. Both types require different skills and cultures.

This is sometimes described as ambidexterity, i.e. being both left and right handed. Organisational ambidexterity refers to an organisation that is adaptable and able to cope with tomorrow’s changing demands and at the same time is able to manage the day to day business efficiently.

For a long time, university support services have focused on the latter. They became more efficient and perfected their administrative excellence. Harmonisation, centralisation and lean management were key words. Such organisations did not embrace experimentation, creativity or flexibility. The fact is, however, that universities need support services that do this as well as being efficient.

It is easy to go from one type of organisation (the operational and efficient one, focused on accountability) to the other (the flexible organisation that services innovation). But the real challenge is to be both.

So what does this look like in practice? It is an HR department with a 100% accurate salary administration and bespoke talent recruitment services. Or IT that makes sure that the Wifi always works, and that is also involved in new developments around online education and MOOCs. An international office that deals with thousands of student applications efficiently, and is also able to help that one student whose visa documents got lost. In short, a reliable administration that helps the university to comply, and that agile at the same time.

This may not sound too difficult, but it is good to know that in real life less than 1% of all people are ambidextrous.


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