Anka Mulder


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Posts in category Open Education

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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Credits for MOOCs?


This year’s EdX Global Forum (8-10 November in Washington DC) was all about MOOCs and credits. No surprise, as we increasingly receive questions from teachers (“Can I use this my colleague’s MOOC in my course?”) and students (“Can I take this MOOC from university X for credit in my regular campus programme?”). But is was also on the conference agenda because we put it there. TU Delft prepared a discussion document together with ANU in Australia: should we include MOOCs in our campus programmes and if so, how do we do this?

During the conference there was a feeling among quite a few participants that giving credits for MOOCs will happen anyway. It has advantages for our students (access to a vast portfolio of interesting courses), teaching staff (enhance the curriculum and share quality education) and universities (sharing and using each other’s expertise and offering that to our own students). But there are many issues to be solved before we can recognise each other’s MOOCs. Most universities don’t accept their own MOOCs in their campus programmes, let alone those of other universities. What are the problems?

Not all MOOCs are suitable
In the past few years MOOCs have been made for a number of reasons and for different audiences. Quite a number are introductory MOOCs or MOOCs for secondary school students. Obviously, these are not suitable parts of regular university programmes. Also, whereas some programmes have quite some space for electives or courses -so perhaps also MOOCs- taken from other universities, other programmes are more strict.

Global credit system?
Interoperability and a global standard neededThere are numerous models for the way in which a curriculum is structured: which entry level is required, which place does a course have in the curriculum (first year, second ..), how long and which level is it, to name a few. These models vary per continent, country, region and often even within a university. This makes it hard to judge if a particular MOOC fits into a regular programme. Some countries, e.g. Australia, and regions, e.g. the EU with its ECTS, already have experience with a credit transfer system. A next step could be to map these models and see if a global credit system can be developed.

Financial systems
Universities worldwide are financed in different ways. Some rely mostly on government funding for their education, others need to cover the cost of education 100% with tuition fees. Some receive a large part of their budget as a lump-sum funding, others are funded per students or per graduated student. All universities have to cover their expenses. MOOC producing universities have invested in their online and MOOC programme. A system of mutual recognition of MOOCs may affect universities in different ways.

Our campus population
The decision on which course can be included in a particular programme often does not lie with the Board, but with the course director, dean, or examination board. So that is also the case for the decision on if and how a MOOC can be included.

Even more important is this: for our staff to accept such a new step one point will be vital and that is quality. Our teachers and programme directors will only consider integrating a MOOC in a regular programme if it is of top quality and produced by a reliable university they know and have worked with before.

The funny thing is that most of these points are not new.
We already have many students in exchange programmes, TU Delft students taking courses at UBC Vancouver, or ANU students at TU Delft. We already experience the difficulties in transferring credits between universities. But recognising MOOCs means that we are potentially talking about large numbers of students. A good reason to solve this now for MOOCs and with a bit of luck, we may also solve the problems that campus exchange students have.

So what is next?
Credits for MOOCs is a difficult issue with many facets. We have to study these thoroughly and perhaps try out some small pilots as a next careful step. A group of universities, including TU Delft and ANU, present at the conference have set up a working group to discuss exactly this: how can we give credits to MOOCs, make use of each other MOOCs and open up a global portfolio to all our students?

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Making lifelong learning a success with MOOCs

Advisory Committee on ‘Flexibel hoger onderwijs voor werkenden’ Landelijk netwerk Associate degree 23 september 2013 Patrick Leushuis Ministerie OCW.

The importance of lifelong learning is widely recognised. “The pace and volume of change in just about every major discipline means that lifelong learning is no longer an option, but absolutely essential. However excellent your education was at school, within a few years of entering the workforce, a gap will be opening up between what you need to know, what has recently been discovered, and what you were taught while at school.”, says Andrew Bollington in the OECD Yearbook 2015. So if it is so important, why is it such an unsexy subject?

Some politicians and government officials have called lifelong learning a headache dossier. As in some other countries, the Netherlands have seen a sharp decline in the participation in lifelong learning, notably in at the university level. In 2001, around 2.000 lifelong learners enrolled at a Dutch university for a regular degree programme; 10 years later that was 881! At TU Delft as well, we have few successful examples.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this decline, but there is clearly a gap between what professionals and their employers are looking for and what universities offer. At TU Delft we have decided to try to close this gap. Based on TU Delft expertise, of course, but offered in a different way: specific content added, flexible, modular, and (partly) online, so that it meets the demands of professionals.

In the past year, we have talked with employers to see how we could meet their education and training needs. We have also experimented with MOOCs and different types of blended and online courses for professionals worldwide. Some examples:

  • MOOC on Data Analysis as a blended corporate course
    The MOOC Data Analysis to the MAX() was offered as an open course on Edx. Together with Capgemini we offered the course in blended way for their employees. Capgemini learners followed the MOOC with other learners, and had three specific evening session with a trainer from the Capgemini Academy on top of that. The last evening session was also attended by our TU Delft lecturer Felienne Hermans, responsible for the MOOC.
  • TU Delft – company co-development of a MOOC on Geology
    Shell has a number of employees who do not have a background in geology, but for whom it would be helpful to have some knowledge of it. At TU Delft we had plans to develop a MOOC on geology, so we put one and one together. Shell gives a financial contribution to enable us to make at the MOOC and it provides some real life examples. This will make the MOOC more interesting for their employees, but also for the rest of the world.
  • Online ProfEd Course on Credit Risk Management with extra company weeks
    The MOOC Credit Risk Management attracted quite some interest from the financial sector. A number of companies inquired if some of their employees could do an advanced course on this topic as well. The model we use here is to offer the first four weeks as a generic course to all these companies. This part of the course will be fully developed by TU Delft. Each company, together with our lecturer, will then create an extra fifth week with company specifics. During the course company students are grouped in private cohorts, so that they can share their specific company insights.
  • Sharing knowledge on the Circular Economy
    As university partner of the  Ellen MacArthur Foundation TU Delft received a grant to create a MOOC about the circular economy. The foundation has corporate members as well. Some of these, Philips, Unilever and Renault, decided to share their knowledge on the subject with us and contribute to our MOOC. To raise awareness about the circular economy within their company, they actively encourage their employees to follow this MOOC.

We are determined to making professional education work. To be successful, we need employers’ help. It is vital that we hear what employers and their staff need and how and where we can contribute. Get in touch with us and let us know!

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Education for a better world: more than 100,000 students for Solar Energy

Banner Solar Energy

Banner Solar Energy

In September 2013 TU Delft started its MOOC programme with Solar Energy and Water Treatment as pioneers. One of the main drivers of our MOOC experiment was to reach out to as many interested learners as we could. Also to see how we could help to solve the world’s major challenges, i.e. to provide education for a better world. So after Solar Energy and Water Treatment many MOOCs followed, for example on biotechnology, responsible innovation and water and climate. All were successful: excellent quality and many learners.

Let’s have a closer look at the Solar Energy MOOC. Solar Energy’s first run started in September 2013 with 57,000 students. Almost 3,000 of those received a certificate. The second time it ran was a year later, in September 2014, when it had 28,500 students. 1,300 of that group got a certificate. Because of this succes, Solar Energy will have a third run  in September 2015 and already 7,600 learners have registered.

There has been a worldwide interest in this MOOC, also in regions where English is not widely spoken. So with the support of the Queen Rania Foundation and some of our TU Delft staff, Solar Energy was translated into Arabic. The course will soon be offered on the EdRaak platform to the Arab speaking world. Already more than 7,000 learners have signed up.

The course had an impact on the life of many students. A great example is the story of Andersson Contreras from Colombia, who wants to use the knowledge he acquired from the MOOC to develop a sustainable and stable energy source for  the Wounaan indigenous community in Colombia, who are now dependent on diesel generators.

Finally, the course culminated without committing any error in the exams and assignments so I got a score of 100% and a certificate of EDX of this course. 

After gaining all this knowledge, install my own PV system using mathematical tools provided for that purpose, and economic results of the system were very satisfactory. Now, I have a saving of over 50% of money, a continuous electric fluid and a contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

But there are more successes than these 100.000+ learners and beautiful examples. The MOOC’s professor, Arno Smets, uses his online materials and his MOOC experience in his campus education. Arno has also become an advocate for educational innovation at our university, convincing many colleagues to join. There are many like him: Luuk Rietveld, Jules van Lier, Jacco Hoekstra, Felienne Hermans, Alexander de Haan, Isabelle Arends, Pasquale Cirillo, and many more. Have a look at our website and meet our pioneers.

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Open Education Week: the world wants to learn

Next Monday marks the start of the Open Education Week. Supported by the Open Education Consortium, many activities will be organised between 9-13 March worldwide to raise awareness about open education.

At Delft University of Technology we will organise a number of interesting local activities at our campus. We will share experiences with open education, the impact on campus education and society. Please join us if you are around. You can find the full programme at the open TU Delft website, and to give you an idea, here’s the programme in short:

  • On Monday 9 March we will organise a Research Seminar and an Education Seminar, where our own TU Delft colleagues and colleagues from other universities will share their experiences
  • On Tuesday 10 March our TU Delft e-learning developers will provide a workshop for lecturers: how to develop a course design based on Open Education and how to use Open Education Resources
  • On Wednesday 11 March the TU Delft New Media Center will organise a tour of our recording studio for our lecturers
  • And finally on Thursday 12 March we will have a debate for students with our student council about the future of Open Education. I will take part in this debate as well.

I am happy to already see so much interest from our teaching staff for these activities: already we have more than 200 registrations.

In The Netherlands some other activities will take place as well, organised by SURF. SURF will broadcast 5 lunch lectures, one of which is a lecture by TU Delft about the state of Open Education worldwide. It will also release a theme issue around how to reach new audiences through Open & Online Education.

There have been so many new developments in online education in the least few years – MOOCs, SPOCs, professional online education, to name a few – that we sometimes forget why we started all of this: to provide education to everyone who wants to learn and to improve the quality of education. Open Education helps us doing just that.


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D66 wil vaart achter digitalisering Onderwijs

De afgelopen week heb ik deelgenomen aan de SURF bestuursreis van een aantal bestuurders van Nederlandse Hogescholen en universiteiten naar de VS. Naast het Amerikaanse ministerie van Onderwijs bezochten we universiteiten als Harvard, Columbia, New York State, Tufts en MIT. Het Amerikaanse hoger onderwijs investeert enorm in online onderwijs en ontwikkelingen gaan razend snel. Een paar feiten:

  • Harvard investeerde $30 miljoen in edX, daarnaast in haar eigen online onderwijs en heeft een ondersteunend bureau van 150 mensen
  • Coursera heeft nu 5,25 miljoen studenten die een MOOC volgen
  • edX heeft een contract gesloten met de Wereldbank en met Google. Met Google hoopt ze haar onderwijs nog beter toegankelijk te maken.

Het is daarom goed om te zien dat D66 afgelopen maandag de notitie “ICT in het Onderwijs” heeft gepresenteerd en dat de politieke aandacht voor deze veranderingen in het hoger onderwijs groeit.

De D66 notitie
Volgens hun notitie biedt ICT vele nieuwe kansen. De verwachtingen zijn soms te hooggespannen, maar je kunt deze nieuwe ontwikkelingen echter niet meer negeren als instelling: het internet zal het onderwijs gaan veranderen, net zoals dat in andere sectoren is gebeurd.

D66 heeft ook aandacht voor MOOCs en kiest hierbij specifiek voor een dieptestrategie. Een select aantal universiteiten of vakgebieden zouden vanuit de overheid gesteund moeten worden om online onderwijs in Nederland te versterken en ons land meer op de kaart te zetten. Hier moet vooral niet te lang mee worden gewacht.

Een belangrijke rol voor de overheid is om instellingen ruimte te geven om hun onderwijs te innoveren. Er moet daarbij vooral worden gekeken naar het wegnemen van belemmeringen.  Een voorbeeld is dat op een papieren boek 6% en op een ebook 21% BTW zit. D66 stelt nu voor om het BTW-tarief op digitaal onderwijs tijdelijk te verlagen naar 0%.

Ik heb vaak gezegd dat Nederland in een uitstekende positie is om een grote rol te spelen op dit terrein. De realiteit is echter dat we dat nu niet waar maken. Internationaal zijn we weinig zichtbaar. Daarnaast zijn we te voorzichtig waar het gaat om online mogelijkheden en het verbeteren van ons reguliere campus onderwijs. Het uitkomen van dit rapport vind ik daarom een belangrijke stap. Binnenkort komt minister Bussemaker met een notitie over MOOCs en online onderwijs en ik ben benieuwd of de minister dezelfde richting inslaat.

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Google Search Results: Become #1 or end up #187?

MOOCs are booming business. After little over one year Coursera alone reached over 3,500,000 users. EdX reached 1,000,000 course enrollments by over 900,000 users on March 1, 2013 (pdf). Meanwhile some formal educational institutes recognize MOOC certificates as entrance requirement, the state of California wants universities to use MOOCs for education and now Udacity, AT&T and Georgia Tech plan to offer massive, but not open, master degrees for $7,000.

We can argue about whether or not these developments are desirable, but they are happening anyway. An important question is where this innovation comes from: that is the US, not Europe. Only a small number of European universities have developed MOOCs so far. They publish these mostly on the available American platforms. Where’s the European innovation, with regard to Open Education and Open Educational Resources? What is holding us back?

It is not easy to innovate. Innovation always holds a dilemma for universities, notably public universities. On the one hand we are asked to be creative, innovate and take risks. On the other, society demands that we avoid mistakes and risks. So, should we invest in the development of online education if we do not know the exact details about where it will go to? I have addressed this dilemma in some of my presentations, such as my keynote presentation for the NCOSM (in Dutch):

I believe that we do not have a choice and that we have to embrace this educational innovation.  Europe should strive to become a world player in open and online education. If I take a look at the Netherlands, conditions are excellent to become a pioneer in the field of online education. The Dutch Government’s interest in the Open Education movement is growing fast (article in Dutch), Dutch Universities have joined forces in the national ICT in education and research network called SURF, and most Dutch universities are taking their first steps in Open Education developments. Why not take a big leap instead?

Now is the time to become active in the field of open and online education. Ask yourself this question: would you rather aim for becoming the #1 or 2 in Google’s search results, or wait now and think about how to improve your #187 search score once you have finally stepped in. Not only our government, but our universities should invest and support this and grasp the opportunity to aim for the top.

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Universities should move online much faster

Recently I wrote an opinion article in the Dutch newspaper NRC-NEXT with Karl Dittrich, the Chairman of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU).

In our article we say that the recent developments around MOOCs are the start of acceleration in the development of online education. This development is essential for the knowledge economy and Dutch universities should be among the frontrunners.
We advocate the development of a wide range initiatives in online education, targeting new audiences for the Dutch universities, both in the Netherlands and abroad. We have three reasons for this:

  1. Traditional part-time education hasn’t worked in the Netherlands
    Dutch universities have concluded that part-time university education has become unattractive for Life Long Learners. The number of students in this sector fell from 3,080 in 2009 to 1,400 in 2012. This is a worrying development, considering that lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important. In all sectors professionals are expected to keep their expertise and skills up to date. Companies and organizations are increasingly demanding flexible forms of education and customized training for their employees. For organizational and financial reasons, Dutch universities can not offer this. Online education provides a flexible alternative. It better matches the time and pace of learning of the individual learner.
  2. Online education attracts talent to the Netherlands
    Demand for university trained staff in the field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) in the Netherlands and Europe is high, and supply too low. The Dutch company ASML has 1200 vacancies and recruits an increasing part of its new employees from abroad. Dutch universities have embraced this need for international talent. They have internationalized, offering education in English and receive more and more foreign students. This is a good development for the Dutch economy. The CPB (Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis) has calculated that the economic balance between costs and benefits of the presence of foreign students is positive. This conclusion is not surprising: Australia, the US and the UK have considered  higher education as an export product for many years. By offering education online, our education will become more visible internationally and that will help to attract more students to study/work in the Netherlands. Almost all of our universities score well in the international  rankings. Dutch universities are world leaders in specific areas. Examples are “food” in Wageningen, “healthy aging” in Groningen, “international law” in Leiden and “water” in Delft. The universities of Leiden and Delft strengthen their reputation by offering MOOCs in these areas. This not only improves the reputation of universities, but also of the Netherlands as a knowledge society as a whole.
  3. Online Education improves the quality of education
    New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman wrote that digitization has changed various sectors: we shop online, we book holidays online, the media world has changed and now it is education’s turn. For example, students at the Harvard Business School prefer to follow online basic accounting at Brigham Young University over Harvard’s own classrooms. Why? Because students think the basic accounting education provided by Bringham Young is simply better. Friedman argues that online education will lead to a huge improvement in quality: “When the outstanding becomes so easily accessible, average is over.” And that is something every government, every university, every country should want.

Universities should take steps to create a solid plan for digitization. They can do so partly on the basis of their own plans and ambitions, but it would also be wise to look for joint possibilities.

The initial costs of digitization are high. Digitization requires a specific pedagogical approach and, to be able to offer more tailored education to industry, requires consultation and additional resources.

Our call to the Dutch government is to support a specific approach, in which higher education, business and government give this development additional momentum. The Netherlands has one of the best IT infrastructures in the world, SURFnet, created in collaboration with all the above parties. Why not line up our ambition in the field of online education as well?

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Online in Europe and the US

File:European flag wavy.jpg

On 4 March MIT and Harvard organised a summit on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education.” Many interesting sessions and speakers, including:

  • Clayton Christensen – explaining that the online movement is the disruptive technology for traditional higher education;
  • Eric Mazur – on how to improve current campus education;
  • Thomas Friedman – describing that what is happening in higher education today, is what has happened to many sectors before, including the media: they all have had to adapt to the effects of digital technology and the internet. Friedman stated that this will result in more quality: “If quality becomes so easily accessible, average is over.”

The summit focused on the US. I wonder if online education will have the same effects on Europe as it will on the US given the fact that the financial models of higher education are so different.

  • Tuition fees are high in the US, where students can pay $40.000 per year.  Most of EU higher education is based on public funding. Tuition fees range from free or almost for free, to substantial in the UK, but still lower than those in the US;
  • The budgets of American universities, notably those in the top, are much higher than those of European universities.

This probably means that reasons to go online are also different. For American students, studying online can be much cheaper. If an American student can do the first year of a programme online, he or she may save $40.000; a European student would save perhaps a few thousand Euros. So online education can be a threat for US universities, but is it for their European colleagues?

On the other hand, American universities have a bigger budget to develop online programmes and therefore to build a strong reputation online. Will the top American universities become the Googles, LinkedIns or Facebooks of higher education, leaving European universities behind? What do you think?

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Open Education Week – Dutch Event

Open Education Week

On 13 March SURF, Delft University and the Open University organised a very successful Dutch event as part of the Open Education Week. Around 100 participants from more than 30 Dutch Higher Education institutions and government discussed the next steps for the Netherlands. Lieve van de Brande explained the EU’s “Opening Up Education” programme, that will be launched this summer.

There was a general consensus that whatever we do online, it should be open. While most participants believed that open & online education will have a positive effect on education, especially on access and quality, some pointed out that online has risks as well. For example, some people stated that the current problems we have in campus higher education and pedagogy will be even more exposed once online and used by many more. Improve first, before you put things online, was their advise. Others believed that online will automatically lead to peer review by many more people, comparable to how Wikipedia works, and therefore improve the quality of education.

Thomas Freedman in the New york Times on online education and quality: “When quality becomes so easily accessible, average is over.”

My presentation is available on slideshare (in Dutch).

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