March 24 2016- The first MOOC of Utrecht University will go live on the platform Coursera at April 4th. The registration has recently started. This MOOC with the subject Clinical Epidemiology is the first of four MOOCs the UU will be developing in 2016, each linked to one of the university's four strategic themes. The university wants to use these MOOCs to introduce students to the relevant fields. That will allow students to make a more informed selection from among the accredited Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) and campus courses.
An MOOC – a Massive Open Online Course – is a free online course that has been designed for mass participation and for which the course materials are distributed on the web, meaning that participants are not bound to any one location. Courses usually last from 3 to 6 weeks and feature lots of interaction between students, who can take part wherever and whenever they like. MOOCs make heavy use of video, quizzes, texts and homework as well as a final exam. The course is not accredited.
UU wants to use MOOCs to gain experience with new forms of teaching and new ways to make education available to wide audiences. That's why the MOOCs are coordinated by Educate-it.
Other goals UU hopes to achieve with these MOOCs are:
- Increasing Utrecht University's renown
- Contributing to the university's (international) reputation
- Using the four themes to demonstrate what areas UU excels in.
- Marketing the university's (post-graduate) online educational programmes and investigating whether MOOCs increase participation in UU educational programmes, especially its (online) Master's degree programmes.
- Facilitating scientific research by generating data.
UU and online education
Utrecht University already has a great deal of experience with online education. The MOOCs will serve as an introduction to the SPOCs and campus education. Utrecht University has been developing SPOCs – Small Private Online Courses – since 2012. It was one of the first institutions to offer SPOCs and a complete online Master's degree programme. Right now, the university already offers over 70 fully accredited courses on the Elevate health platform, which UU co-founded with UMCU. That platform offers small-scale education with intense coaching and lots of interaction, both among students and between students and teachers. This makes it a good fit for the Utrecht model of education, with its emphasis on small-scale, personal and engaging education. The advantage of SPOCs is that students from all over the world can participate in the course from a distance, without having to physically come to Utrecht. We will also be using these courses to help students make up any academic deficits before they start a Master's degree programme.
Concurrently with the Elevate initiative, top-tier institutions like Stanford, MIT and Harvard started the first MOOCs. MOOC platforms offer free, online, open courses that can and do accommodate large numbers of participants. The MOOCs have put online education back on the international and administrative agenda. They have vastly increased the popularity of online education.
Since the fall of 2013, some of the top-tier institutions and MOOC platforms have been shifting their focus: alongside their MOOCs, they have started offering SPOCs. This latter form of teaching has a more sustainable business model and a much higher graduation rate. It seems likely that these two forms of teaching will continue to exist side by side for a few more years at least, but only time will tell.
The UU MOOCs
Now that MOOC platforms are graduating from their initial years of experimentation and development, the time has come to investigate how Utrecht University can benefit from MOOCs. The university has no intention to offer the entirety of its on-campus education online, but it does believe, as stated in the Strategic Plan, that it is important from the perspective of internationalisation and valorisation to develop off-campus education that parallels on-campus teaching. In time, it may well become feasible for students at our campus to take part in courses or academic programmes with students elsewhere in the world.
Educate-it will coordinate the development of four MOOCs in 2016, as well as their publication on Coursera. Each course will address one of Utrecht University's four research themes: Sustainability, Life Sciences, Institutions and Dynamics of Youth.
You can find more information about the MOOCs on offer from UU on the UU corporate site.
More information about Utrecht University's SPOCs is available from the Elevate site.