Anka Mulder

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Education in the digital era

In April 1989 I visited West Berlin and I briefly crossed the border to East Berlin. Food was different there, smelled different. Eastern and Western Europe were divided; the Soviet Union still existed. Tomorrow, on January 1, 2015, Lithuania will join the Eurozone. It will become the 19th country to introduce the Euro. In 25 years, Europe has changed beyond recognition. Not so long ago, all three Baltic countries being members of the Eurozone would have been unimaginable.

EU logoBut the European Union still faces problems. The political situation in Ukraine affects the European Union and instability on Europe’s southern borders results in thousands of refugees trying to enter the European Union. We have all seen the distressfull images of desperate people in the Adriatic Sea and at the Spanish borders. Additionally, Europe’s economy remains fragile. Economic recovery is slow. The youth unemployment rate is over 20% and much higher in some member states.

What does all of this have to do with education? One of the strong points about education policies in the EU and its member states has always been the focus it places on education as an equaliser; in other words a way to address inequality. Another strong point was the Erasmus programme: set up in 1987, almost 3 million students have since benefited from this programme. That means 3 million young people crossing borders and, perhaps, becoming true European citizens. Higher education standardisation has also been a success i.e. the bachelor-master structure, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS ), and the mutual recognition of diplomas. And the Framework Programmes have had a positive effect on research opportunities at European universities.

But for European economies to become really competitive, more needs to be done. Education policies in Europe have focused on addressing inequalities and on promoting mutual understanding. Important as this is, it is not enough. A competitive European economy also needs strong players who can compete with the world’s best. Competitiveness means helping those not so fortunate, but also giving room to excellence. Because excellence drives innovation.

On 11 and 12 December a European High level Conference on “Education in the Digital Era” took place in Brussels. At the conference, Education Ministers were asked what their dream was for Europe five years from now. My dream would be a Europe with a sound economy, based on sustainable principles. A politically stable and economically strong Europe. Without youth unemployment. That means investing in education now, in life-long learning, closing the skills gap, and in excellence and innovation. And not to forget inclusivity, quality and competitiveness.

Estonia has introduced e-residency. This gives people access to Estonia’s digital services and an opportunity to use digital signatures in a secure electronic environment. Innovation and excellence can take place everywhere. In the Baltic States for example. Happy New Year!

3mE

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Top

Vandaag was ik uitgenodigd als spreker op een onderwijssymposium van D66. Aan het eind van mijn presentatie kreeg ik twee vragen, die me vandaag hebben beziggehouden: waarom zou je top willen zijn en hoe word je dat als universiteit?

Waarom top? Een goede vraag. Wij Nederlanders hebben een ingewikkelde relatie met excellentie. Lange tijd was het not done om excellent te willen zijn, met de bekende zesjescultuur als gevolg. Daarin is de afgelopen jaren zeker iets veranderd: excellentieprogramma’s voor leerlingen en studenten, aandacht voor hoogbegaafden, CITO-toetsen, sneller studeren, eisen als BSA en harde knip zijn maar een paar voorbeelden. Aan de instelling waaraan ik ben verbonden, zie ik een cultuuromslag onder studenten, waarin goed presenteren geaccepteerd is en je ervoor kunt uitkomen dat je graag hoge cijfers haalt.

Maar universiteiten? Mogen die top willen zijn? Of is allemaal ongeveer even goed in de subtop beter? Dat laatste is momenteel de realiteit: alle Nederlandse universiteiten presenteren goed, bijna alle zitten in de top 200. Geen enkele echter bevindt zich in de absolute top. In de onlangs uitgekomen Times Higher Education ranking, bijvoorbeeld, is Leiden op plaats 64 de hoogste Nederlandse universiteit.

De vragensteller had zich ook tot het publiek kunnen richten: wat wil Nederland eigenlijk van zijn universiteiten? Als ik Nederland was, zou ik ambitieus zijn en instellingen vragen om niet tevreden te zijn met een zes of zeven. Maar hoe wordt een universiteit een 9 of een 10? Dat kost geld, gaf ik vanmiddag aan. Top 20 universiteiten zijn rijker dan Nederlandse universiteiten. Nu al is de concurrentie uit Duitsland en Zwitserland enorm. Topacademici krijgen daar meer geld, zodat ze zich betere faciliteiten kunnen veroorloven en meer promovendi om hen te helpen met hun onderzoek en onderwijs.

Maar “meer geld” is een wat simpel antwoord. Allereerst hoeft niet al dat geld van de overheid te komen. Dat kan ook het bedrijfsleven zijn bijvoorbeeld, als universiteiten hen iets kunnen bieden dat hen ook helpt. En universiteiten zouden private activiteiten kunnen ontwikkelen. Daarnaast zijn er andere factoren dan geld die een rol spelen. Relatieve autonomie is een belangrijke factor, geeft onderzoek naar succesvolle universiteiten aan. Het feit dat een instelling zelf inhoud kan geven aan zijn kwaliteitskoers: onderwijsdirecteuren, afdelingshoofden, decanen, bestuurders, studenten en vooral docenten. Want goede docenten en onderzoekers zijn natuurlijk essentieel voor een instelling met de ambitie om top te worden.

Met autonomie wordt overigens niet bedoeld dat geen enkele eis meer mag worden gesteld aan een universiteit of andere onderwijsinstelling, maar dat het aantal eisen wordt beperkt en gericht op de hoofdlijn: goed onderwijs en goed onderzoek, het beste uit jezelf halen. Hetzelfde als we van onze studenten en leerlingen vragen.

Nuon Solar Team wint zonnerace in Zuid-Afrika

Nuon Solar Team wint zonnerace in Zuid-Afrika
CC-BY Nuon

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TU Delft #19 and #71 in THE World University Rankings

Last week the Times Higher Education World University Rankings came out, listing TU Delft at #19 among Engineering and Technical Universities and #71 in the overall university ranking worldwide.

A small decline compared to last year for the overall ranking; up in engineering and technology. TU Delft is now in the top 20 for Engineering and Technical Universities: we can be proud once again.

 

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Halt the Rapid Decline in Part-Time Higher Education

Earlier this week I wrote an article for the Huffington Post explaining how Delft University of Technology wants to address the increasing demand for higher education for professionals.

People are working longer, which means that the time between their formal education and their retirement age will increase. So, either we develop bachelor and master education that prepares people for a working life of 40 plus years, or we find ways to update people’s knowledge and skills during their working life. The latter is more likely. That means that the need for part-time, post initial education will grow.

In the article in the Huffington Post I give some suggestions about how to do that and the role online education can play. You can read the article here.

HF

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Opening Academic Year 2014-2015

We live in exciting times. For example, more information will be created this year than in the last 5.000 years together. And more than 2,4 billion people use the internet. There are also great worries, about climate change, energy, population growth, etc. As society changes, so does the engineering profession.

This is also a challenge for our university: how do we prepare our students for tomorrow’s society? There is a saying about education which goes as follows: “We teach today’s students with with yesterday’s knowledge, for a future we don’t know”. What we do know is that we have about 5-7 years, starting next week.

Teaching students what we ourselves have learnt is not sufficient. In the words of Albert Einstein: ‘You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.’ So we have to teach students how to look at problems from a different perspective than our own. Our lecturers, professors, board and support staff have to evaluate education constantly and include today’s insights and research results in our educational programmes.

In an earlier post I mentioned that we have started a discussion about what we believe tomorrow’s engineers need to know, understand and do. The coming academic year we will continue this discussion, together with our professors, lecturers and students. And we will start September 1st, at the Opening of the academic Year. I look forward to it. See you there?

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TU Delft investeert in onderwijs

Steeds meer Nederlandse en internationale studenten kiezen voor een opleiding van de TU Delft. Had de TU Delft 10 jaar geleden zo’n 13.000 studenten, nu zijn dat er ruim 19.000 en we verwachten ook dit jaar weer te groeien. Blijkbaar zijn de kwaliteit, reputatie en de loopbaanperspectieven die de TU biedt aantrekkelijk: studenten kiezen met hun voeten.

Dat is goed nieuws, maar de groei leidt ook tot kopzorgen: overal wordt het drukker, bij de docenten, de studieadviseurs, in de zalen, labs, de bibliotheek, enz. Oplossen is echter niet eenvoudig. Het aannemen van nieuwe docenten en bouwen van labs en onderwijsruimten kost namelijk tijd. Bovendien gaat het om hoge investeringen, die daarom weloverwogen moeten worden ingezet.

Allereerst is de instroom moeilijk te voorspellen. Een voorbeeld: waren Bouwkunde en Industrieel Ontwerpen jarenlang onze grootste opleidingen; nu zijn dat Civiele Techniek, Werktuigbouwkunde en Luchtvaart- en Ruimtevaarttechniek. De instroom bij Bouwkunde is gehalveerd; opleidingen die jarenlang kampten met een lage instroom, zoals Maritieme Techniek en Applied Earth Sciences, groeien nu fors. Veranderingen in inschrijvingstermijnen en wetgeving rondom langstuderen en studiefinanciering dragen er ook aan bij dat onduidelijk is welke instroom we kunnen verwachten. Die voorspelbaarheid is belangrijk, want het maakt nogal wat uit of je 200 of 400 eerstejaars studenten in je opleiding kunt verwachten: hoeveel docenten moet je aannemen, hoeveel labs, zalen, werkplekken moet je bouwen? En zijn die ook de komende jaren nodig?

Moeilijk in te schatten of niet, de TU Delft heeft besloten om extra te investeren om kwaliteit te kunnen blijven garanderen. De afgelopen jaren was al extra geld uitgetrokken voor de snelle groeiers, zoals Lucht- en Ruimtevaarttechniek,Werktuigbouwkunde en Civiele Techniek. Daarmee kunnen de opleidingen bijvoorbeeld nieuwe docenten aantrekken. In september, als we weten hoeveel studenten echt zijn gestart, gaan we opnieuw kijken wat voor 2015 en verder nodig is.

In de opleidingen wordt aandacht besteed aan hoe goed onderwijs te geven aan grote groepen studenten: hoe richt je projectonderwijs in of hoe geef je een interessant hoorcollege bij zulke aantallen? Het opleidingspakket van OC Focus, waar veel docenten gebruik van hebben gemaakt, bevat delen die daar speciaal over gaan.

Ook in onderwijsruimten investeren we. Er zijn nieuwe zalen gebouwd bij Werktuigbouwkunde en Maritieme Techniek, nieuwe labruimten bij Civiele Techniek en binnenkort wordt gestart met de bouw van een Learning Centre. Klapper dit jaar is het Legermuseum. Om knelpunten op korte termijn op te lossen, hebben we een deel daarvan gehuurd en deze zomer in enkele weken tot onderwijsruimte omgebouwd. Een prachtig zeventiende eeuws pand, voor onze ingenieurs van de toekomst.

Delft-creating-history

 

 

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Online education in the Netherlands: Delft, Leiden and Rotterdam

Cooperation between TU Delft, Leiden University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and their medical centres has been around for some years. Over time, it has come to include  multidisciplinary research, the development of a particle cancer treatment centre and educational programmes on a variety of subjects, such as Life Science and Technology, Nano Bio Science, Molecular Science an Technology and Clinical Technology.

Earlier this year, TU Delft, Leiden University and Erasmus University decided to also join forces in innovation of  higher education pedagogy with a special focus on online education. The Centre for Education & Learning, CEL, was set up with the purpose to coordinate this. All three universities have high ambitions with regard to quality in and innovation of higher education. Furthermore, Delft is a core member of edX, Leiden of Coursera and Erasmus  has started an active policy in online education. Together we want to play a leading role in this:

  • we are currently developing blended learning minors together, the first of which will start in September (responsible innovation);
  • together we will recruit a number of PhD students, who will, for example, do research on how to use big data to improve higher education;
  • modules for online teaching are being developed for our teaching staff.

Last month, TU Delft hosted the edX Global Forum. Around 250 colleagues from the world’s top 100 universities came to Delft for a two day programme about edX’s next steps. They included board members, online education programme directors and staff, MOOC professors and author right experts. EdX now has 48 institutions on board, 180 MOOCs, 5 million enrolments and has handed out around 175.000 certificates. The subjects addressed during the forum included: blended learning, MOOCs and research on university education, new higher education networks, legal issues, open source, etc. New business models were also discussed, i.e.: which opportunities do universities have to brake even and how can edX help?  Suggestions included paid certificates, sponsored bridging MOOCs (i.e. on mathematics, English, etc), the licensing of MOOCs and running SPOCs on a white label part of the edX platform. TU Delft is interested in all these possibilities. George Siemens gave a fantastic and inspiring closing speech. Have a look:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 13.55.45

(Click the image to open the session recording)

Two weeks later, a second important MOOC event took place when Coursera’s Daphne Koller visited Leiden University to talk about Coursera’s plans for the future. Leiden has also been one of the contributors of the LERU document on online education, which will be presented in Brussels this week.

Our goal is to become the European hub for online education and to reach out globally. We believe that we are in a good position to do this. If you are interested in our ambitions, let us know!

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OECD Forum 2014: resilient economies

On 5 and 6 May the annual OECD Forum took place, with a focus on how to create resilient economies and inclusive economic growth. I was invited to take part in a panel discussion on Skills and the Digital Economy.

OECD secretary general Angel Gurría opened the Forum with a great speech on the major issues we have to address. The global economy is showing signs of progress. GDP is growing to 3.5% in 2014 and 4% in 2015. Global trade is growing again, with forecasts of 4.7% and 5.3% for 2014 and 2015. The banking sector is back on its feet. At the same time, we have 202 million unemployed and 73 million young people unemployed.  This has a major impact on public trust in governments and politics: public trust has has gone down to 44%,  with record lows in France (32%), Mexico (28%) and Poland (19%). “This “evaporation of trust” in key institutions weakens our democracies, erodes social cohesion, makes reform more difficult and damages economic growth”, Angel Gurría stated. So how to deal with this?

The forum included discussions on the OECD’s ageing populations, stimulating the creativity and the creative sector, and taxation. Thomas Piketty was mentioned several times.

Our session was on “Skills and the Digital Economy”, which are clearly important for a resilient economy. We discussed the inadequacy of the education system in helping students develop tomorrow’s skills. Some students, such as one of the panellists, drop out of regular education and acquire their education through informal education or not at all. At the same time, there is a growing number of potential students who can not find a place in higher education. So how can we make sure that we improve access to higher education to growing numbers of students and teach the right things, not only to young students, but also to life long learners?

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One important issue is continuing education. There are some differences between OECD countries, but most countries struggle with it. For example, would a 40 year old working mother be able and willing to go to college on a working day at 8:30 in the morning, together with 200 teenage students, while her children need to be taken care of and her job is waiting? And, what other options does she have? To make education work for life long learners, the system has to become more flexible.

But education to regular 18-24 year old students can be improved too. Somebody once said that we teach today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, with yesterday’s knowledge. That is especially true for digital skills. Technology has become ubiquitous in our society and the OECD has calculated that soon 90% of all job will require digital skills. A large part of the current workforce does not have the skills which are necessary in today’s economy and many students do not acquire them during their education. That has to be changed too.

We discussed formal and informal learning and agreed that they are both important and that it really doesn’t matter how students learn, as long as they do. We also talked about the role that online education can play in addressing these issues. As Tyler Cowen, one of the panellists, pointed out: in the future, learners will probably combine online education and tutoring and higher education institutions will adapt to this.

A tweet came in during the panel discussion, saying “colleges and universities are scrambling to play catch up with technology”. I think that is true for higher education institutions as well as for governments. If we are serious about creating resilient economies, it time to speed up.

 

 

 

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Positions at Delft Extension School

Delftulip_PDelft University of Technology is setting up Delft Extension School that will provide online education for life long learners. It will also work together with university staff to provide blended learning for campus education.

We are looking for five new talented and enthusiastic colleagues to be part of this:

  • e-Marketeer Online Education – market accredited and paid online education of the Delft Extension School to potential students worldwide. More information
  • Instructional Designer for Open, Online & Blended Education – responsible for the development of full online courses in the Blackboard Learn LMS (learning management system) for the Delft Extension School. More information
  • eLearning Developer for Open, Online& Blended Education – creating eLearning modules that will be part of the Delft Extension School. More information
  • Programme Management Officer Delft Extension School – responsible for setting up & running the programme management office (PMO) of the Delft Extension School. More information
  • Online Education Business Development Manager- projectleader of the business development in the innovation programme of the Delft Extension School. More information

Positions are open to Dutch and international candidates. The closing date for application is the 15 May 2014.

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Tomorrow’s Engineer

Engineering curricula are packed. At least, they are at TU Delft. Where some universities in the Netherlands struggle to meet the Dutch government’s demand to organise at least 12 “contact hours” (i.e. teaching hours) per week for every student, our engineering programmes face the opposite: how can we keep the number of “contact hours” around 20-25 and teach students all they need to know, when there are only 42 working hours per week (or a bit more)?

This has worked to far, but will become harder in the future. Because society is changing, and so are the demands on engineers. At TU Delft, we have started a discussion about what we believe tomorrow’s engineers need to know, understand and do. Starting point of our discussion is an article written by Aldert Kamp, Education Director at Aerospace Engineering. Aldert states in this article:

 “in an era of Internet and laptops, ..(students).. often find an education system that was developed during the heyday of manual switchboards and keypunches.”

It is clear that future engineers will still need a sound knowledge base. But trends in society point in more directions. Technology is changing so fast, that the engineer of the future will continuously have to update his or her knowledge. For our students learning to learn is therefore as important as acquiring domain knowledge. Also, technological developments raise all kinds of ethical questions. Cloud computing, data mining possibilities, Google glasses and privacy issues, for example. Or shale gas extraction and the environment. Which role and responsibilities do engineers have in this?

ICT developments pose questions as well. For example, do we want our future engineers to calculate as accurately as a computer, or do we want to train students’ skills in which they outperform the computer: creativity, dealing with the unexpected and unprogrammable? Globalisation and diversity are equally important developments. Engineering, perhaps even more than other professions will become more global and engineers will increasingly work in international teams. On top of that, they will work with lawyers, have to explain their ideas to politicians and government officials, and understand the economics of innovation.

The focus at TU Delft has been on the knowledge base, in which our students excel.  I believe it would be very unwise to compromise on that. But we expect more from tomorrow’s top engineers. We want them to have analytics skills,  ethical awareness, focus on continuing education, work in international teams, have the ability to communicate with lawyers, economists and politicians and outperform the computer by being creative. That is a lot. How do we prepare our students for this?

Cramming all of these elements into a good curriculum will become increasingly hard. So we have to prioritise: what is the domain knowledge, expertise and skill set that is essential for our future engineers? We have to realise that it will be impossible for our students to know everything about a certain subject, however much we would like them to.

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