Universiteit Leiden

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'MOOCs are maturing'

At a meeting in The Hague from 20 to 22 March, lecturers, university administrators and online teaching specialists made plans for better teaching using technology. Leiden University organised the meeting and launched a successful new element: the research track.

Annual meeting

The five hundred participants were in The Hague for the annual meeting of Coursera, the international platform for open online courses. The closing day of the conference brought Leiden success in the form of the Outstanding Educator Award for Innovation presented to Professor Richard Griffiths for his Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). ‘Fantastic, especially when you realise that there are over 1,800 MOOCs available on Coursera,' was the reaction of Gideon Shimshon, one of the organisers. 

A hundred leading universities

Shimshon is director of the Centre for Innovation at Leiden University, that brought the Coursera Partner Conference to The Hague and organised the event together with the University of Geneva. 'We have spoken with a hundred leading universities in thirty different countries about how we can make teaching better for a better world using technology. We talked to such universities as Princeton, Stanford and Duke, which have invested in online education and MOOCs in recent years, and looked together at the possibilities offered by technology.' The agenda included strategies for MOOCs, online master's, blended master's and their possible impact on on-campus education. 

A new element was the research track that Shimshon's Centre for Innovation introduced at the conference. Leiden's ICLON also presented a paper at the conference. Leiden University is one of Coursera's five innovation partners, Shimshon explained, and is recognised internationally as being highly innovative in its use of new media and technology in online education. 'Leiden was the first university in the Netherlands to use MOOCs on a large scale.'  

Study credits for MOOCs

One of the developments around MOOCs that was discussed at the conference was the intention of the institutions to award study credits for MOOCs. They also want to work towards recognising one another's MOOCs. 'The good news is that it's our ambition to make the Leiden MOOCs available in this year's prospectus,' Shimshon added.  

Stackable MOOCs

Marja Verstelle, programme leader of the Online Learning Lab at the Centre for Innovation added: ‘Other new trends  are that we intend to create strong partnerships between leading universities to develop the content of MOOCs and to make sure that modules from different MOOCs connect well with one another.'  She continued: ‘One of the mottos of the conference was Beyond the MOOCs: from separate courses to stackable MOOCs that you can use to work towards a certificate and even a diploma from a leading university in your own time and for a fraction of the normal tuition fee. The idea is that free-to-all MOOCs could make up three-quarters of a full online master's programme. GeorgiaTech and Illinois are already offering one along these lines. MOOCs are still evolving, but we can see that they are maturing.' 

Speakers from Leiden University at the conference:

  • Simone Buitendijk (opening speech)
  • Tanja de Bie
  • Jos Berens
  • Jasper Ginn
  • Chris Goto Jones
  • Gideon Shimshon
  • Frans van der Sluis
  • Einat Voordes
  • Tim van der Zee
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