Anka Mulder

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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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