Education at a Distance : Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

Dutch universities have discovered the opportunities of Massive Open Online Course too. Recently, Leiden University prof. dr. Stefaan van den Bogaert has launched a MOOC about The Law of the European Union – an Introduction. Where the capacity of the largest courseroom in Leiden gets close to 1000 students, prof. Van den Bogaert has been able to reach and teach about 50.000 students all over the world!!

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In the United States of America several universities are working with MOOC now, mainly through two platforms: Coursera and edX. Coursera announced partnerships with the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford University, and The University of Michigan. The Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) launched the MITx, an effort to develop a free and open online platform. Harvard joined the initiative, renamed edX, that spring, and University of California, Berkeley joined in the summer. The edX initiative now also includes the University of Texas System, Wellesley College and the Georgetown University.

In The Netherlands, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) had the honor to be the first university to experiment with a MOOC through Coursera called Introduction to Communication Science: 5467 participants signed up of whom 717 were attending the exam and 74 % has completed this course.

Seven years ago Delft started with open course ware – audiovisual course material and the University of Delft is planning to start in autumn this year MOOC’s about Water Treatment and Solar Energy through edX.

BlogMOOC2Leiden University is grounded in a long standing tradition in providing students the space for obtaining a thorough and multifaceted education in law. A MOOC offers Leiden University the possibility to share knowledge globally. Creating the MOOC about the Law of the European Union : An Introduction (Stefaan van den Bogaert) is a collaboration between the Europa Institute at Leiden Law School and the Centre for Innovation The Hague at the university's Campus The Hague. In collaboration between the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism and Centre for Innovation The Hague, prof. Edwin Bakker has started another MOOC about Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice.

Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor, which is not the same as a master’s or bachelor’s degree. The two most common methods of MOOC assessment are machine-graded multiple-choice quizzes or tests and peer-reviewed written assignments. Students are expected to learn both by being the grader as well as by having their work graded. Machine grading of written assignments is also being looked into and will be developed in the near future.

BlogMOOC1Despite costs -- the UvA had to pay around 50000 euro for the first MOOC --, assessment problems and rather low attendance MOOC is still a useful way to share knowledge globally. If a student happens to be bored by a MOOC, he/she will be able to choose a better one. Global course shopping will improve the quality of education in the end. Furthermore, I have to agree with prof. Van den Bogaert who argues a MOOC might function as advertisement as well; if a student likes the course about (European) law of a particular university he or she is more likely to go to Faculty of Law and more eager to get a master’s and/or bachelor’s degree at the same university.

By the way, the website of the Peace Palace Libray offers students of the Hague Academy of International Law online material too in their preparation for the Summer Courses starting at 8 July until 16 August through DOKEOS (e-learning).

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