Anka Mulder – Open and Online Education: the End of Education as We Know it?

The afternoon keynote is delivered by TU Delft’s own Anka Mulder. She asks us: What happened to telephone companies, record shops, travel agencies? The internet totally changed how they operate, they were forced to change.

The same will happen to education, the internet will disrupt it. Many institutions aren’t worried yet. Their arguments include: “There was e-learning in the nineties and it didn’t work”, and “universities have been around for centuries”.

There are already many initiatives online, Khan academy and Open study, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are the next step. Coursera, Udacity and EdX for example. The difference with the other platforms is that the courses ran for a few weeks, with exercises and exams.

Children today are online all the time, communicating on phones and tables, yet we teach them like this.

Also, student number will continue to grow enormously. According to predictions, we would have to built one new university of 20.000 students every week to accommodate the number of students we will have in 2030.

TU Delft

So, how is the situation in Delft? Still the largest part of our education is regular campus education. In addition to that, there are MOOCs and Open Courseware. You don’t need a degree, and you might get a certificate, but no official diploma. Also, there is Online Distance Education, for which you do get official credits.

We have been doing video lectures for a decade and we have thousands of regular lectures online. Anka tells us that what is interesting about this is that students often watch at twice the speed (so maybe we are teaching too slow)

Currently TU Delft is running two MOOCs: Introduction to Water Treatment and Solar Energy. Reason we invest in this is because it is helpful to campus students (increasing output), it is good for our reputation and eventually, it could even be moneymaking. Business models could be certification, online tutoring, sponsoring or using the results for recruitment, by selecting the best students to attend the university.

Finally, online education will make educational materials better. Anka ends with an anecdote about a Harvard MBA. There was an accounting course that students stopped following. Apparently, the students preferred taking an online course at Brigham Yan university (that hardly anybody knows) Why? Because that course was thought so much better. It did not matter anymore that Harvard was renowned!

A quote by Thomas Friedman on this: “When we outstanding becomes easily accessible, average is over”.

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