The University of Amsterdam is going full speed ahead with its first official massive open online course (MOOC). Over 4,500 students from the Netherlands, Europe, U.S. and Asia are enrolled in the first MOOC to be offered in the Netherlands, “Introduction to Communication Science.”
UvA kicked off its free course two weeks ago by live streaming to the world a special event via Mediasite, complete with a champagne toast at the end.
You can watch the kick-off on-demand here.
It’s an exciting time at UvA as it experiments with a new teaching format to engage students in different ways and attract more to its campus.
We were honored to be a part of the university’s kick-off event and were lucky enough to communicate with the MOOC’s organizer and visiting professor, Dr. Arie den Boon afterwards, to learn more about the course and his thoughts on the future of education.
Dr. den Boon founded his own company Daphne Communication Management, which he later sold to GfK. He cofounded StartupPush, in which he trains students and alumni to become ready for a startup, provides them with an idea and helsp them to set up a business. Some of the startups are working on MOOC ideas of their own.
Check out what he has to say:
Q. Why was it important for UvA to join the growing MOOC trend?
A. There has been a discussion about online education for quite some time. After all those years of discussion it became clear that somehow the problem seemed to be solved: students prefer a good MOOC over lecture halls. So now the time was to experiment with this new format and see what we could learn from it. So it started as a pilot, now with strong support behind it on every level.
Another important advantage of this MOOC is that it helps to brand the UvA as innovative and of high quality. Plus, there’s the possibility to reach out to students who still have to decide what to study and give them a much better view of what Communication Science is. It might help to attract students and also to decrease students changing career directions, an expensive process.
Q: How did you start the planning of this MOOC?
A: After I finished an Udacity Artificial Intelligence course instructed by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig in late 2011, I visited some contacts at Google in Amsterdam to see if they had something to offer to set up MOOCs in Holland with an extended form of Google hangouts. They told me that if I could mobilize the Dutch higher education, they would follow, but that they could not do something for small initiatives. So I had to do something myself.
I am teaching at Communication Science at UvA, so I started there. Prof. Dr Peter Neijens was interested. We are friends and wrote a book together, so my strange ideas to give courses away for free and invest in that with money from the Graduate School of Communication Science and the College of Communication was not pushed away. Instead, Peter saw new possibilities and suggested I talk with Rutger de Graaf, the current lecturer of the English language course Introduction to Communication Science. Peter suggested I get approval for the course in other layers of the University structure: the faculty, the top central services, etc.
To make the story short, the Graduate School and the Faculty were quick to fund the idea, the top level faculty were positive as well. They helped me mold my request into the right political format to get approval. Without that it would not have been possible. The first appointment with Rutger was in March 2012, almost a year before the kick off!
Q. How many students are currently enrolled?
A. Over 5,000 (and growing) students are enrolled now. Most of them are from the Netherlands, but others are from Europe, the US and Asia.
Q: What has student response been to UvA's MOOC?
A: The student response has been very positive. Rutger de Graaf, the current lecturer of the English language course Introduction to communication Science, has tested some material in his off line lecturing, and students were very positive and gave helpful marks. In the forum it becomes clear that students help each other and have a great impact on the richness of the environment.
Q: Do students receive credit for taking this MOOC?
A: Students receive a certificate, but not a credit as of yet. For the students of the Graduate School with deficiencies the course can be part of the curriculum in the future when they have a formal and traditional exam.
Q: In the next few years how do you think MOOCs will impact education?
A: They definitely will impact education. We are still in a pilot mode, searching for even better formats, decreasing the 90% dropout rate, individualizing content, finding ways to decrease costs of MOOCs, etc. The best MOOCs are already much better than the average in-hall lectures, and we will see that they will take over certain areas of education, such as courses for repairing deficiencies, adding material to existing work group material, etc.
You can find out more in Dr. den Boon’s guest column for Inside Higher Ed.
For more information, visit http://mooc.uva.nl and www.facebook.com/events/510891922294176/.