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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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