Anka Mulder


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MOOCs for Credit .. goes live

Student Credits for MOOCs

Exactly one year ago I wrote about our Credits for MOOCs idea. What would it take to open up MOOCs to our campus students? The answer is credits of course. (See my blog of November 2015). I am happy to announce the start of our pilot. From this week on our students can join a number of MOOCs and get credits for them.

The first MOOCs for credits will be provided by TU Delft, University of Queensland, Australia National University, and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and they will start in February 2017. During the summer a broader variety of courses will be made available by universities such as Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Rice University. Other top 100 universities have said they are keen to join.

Why is this such an important step?
First of all because it will give students a much wider choice in their education. Because they will not only be able to take part in the MOOCs from their home university but also those of partner universities, students will be able to follow courses on topics their own university has no expertise in or courses on. The joint MOOC portfolio includes courses such as AstrophysicsEvidence-based Practice in Managementthe Psychology of Criminal JusticeEnglish Grammar and StyleTying Quantum Knots, and Engineering: Building with Nature. For a complete list see:
Secondly, it will make learning more flexible for students and provide them with a digital way to learn across borders, a virtual Erasmus Programme, if you will.
And this is the third reason why this project is so important. Exchange programmes so far have been live. A very interesting learning experience for students, but for many not possible due to time or financial constraints.

The reasons to do this were clear upfront, but there were several challenges to overcome before we could start, ranging from organising exams, dealing with different time zones and embedding each other’s MOOCs in our regular credit recognition. With the support and contributions from our online teachers, faculties, boards of examiners, administrators and partner universities we have created a route for virtual exchange. A route where not the student travels, but the course content and exam.

It is our ambition is to let this portfolio grow. We will keep you posted. In the meantime: students – join!

Celebrating one million MOOC enrolments


This summer we reached a big milestone: one million enrolments for our MOOCs on the edX platform. Last Thursday we celebrated this with the TU Delft community. The focus of the event was to show the impact of the 1M.

We joined the edX consortium in the beginning of 2013 and the first two MOOCs started in September 2013. After three years we have 36 MOOCs with 1 million enrolments. This has exceeded all our expectations.

We have reached this milestone thanks to our fantastic team. Rob Fastenau, eDean of the Extension School, said “Behind every course there are teachers who go the extra mile“. Faculty and support team, they all did a great job.

Impact of our MOOCs

Big numbers are good, but what do they mean? During the event we discussed the goals we originally had. We also looked at the impact of our MOOCs:

  • Educate the World: increase access to education
  • Enhance TU Delft’s reputation
  • Improve campus education
  • Facilitate a stronger relation between education and research
  • Provide better collaboration with industry
  • See how MOOCs and the Extension School can be a catalyst for organisational change

We received a very warm congratulation message of Anant Agarwal, President of edX:

The Next Step

I think we all agree that the MOOC programme has had a very positive impact. We are currently working on the next steps, such as proving credits for MOOCs for our campus students and those of partner universities, more collaboration with industry to offer professional education and apply what we learned in our MOOCs to our campus education.


Panel discussion on Education & Research


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?

© 2011 TU Delft