SURFdrive community cloud service

On Friday I was invited to attend the SURF edubloggers meetup. Every now and than SURF invited some of the Dutch edubloggers to inform them about new developments. This time the meeting was about the community cloud and specifically SURFdrive.

Cloud Services

Many students and staff use cloud services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive,, and Microsoft OneDrive. They use this because it is very easy to use, they can access it via any device (also when off-campus), it is free and get more storage than their campus account.
The downside is that these cloud services are all offered by  commercial companies that are based in the US. They not necessarly comply with our Dutch laws and university policies on privacy, security, legal protection, and ownership of data.

Community Cloud

An alternative for the public cloud is the private cloud. But you don't have the economies of scale of the public cloud: higher data price and not as easy to share files with other users. Also, not all educational institutions have the expertise to set this up.

The community cloud is the best of both worlds. You have the federated login and good value for money of the public cloud and the privacy and security of the private cloud. The first community cloud services SURF is introducing is SURFdrive. This is an alternative for Dropbox.


With SURFdrive you can store your personal files in a safe and trusted cloud environment that is developed by SURF on behalf of the Dutch higher education and research. The data will always be stored inside the Netherlands and will never be offered or sold to third parties.
SURFdrive offers 100 GB of space to its users, for sharing and storing files documents, photo's, video's. University employees can login to SURFdrive with their institutional account, so no additional usernames and passwords are needed. You can also access your files anytime, anywhere from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

There are sync tools available for Windows, Apple and Linux and mobile apps for iOS and Android (no Windows Phone).

SURFdrive complies to the "juridische normenkader cloud services" with regards to privacy, security and availability.

Students will be able to buy an account via SURFspot for around 18 euros per year.

SURFdrive is based on the software of ownCloud. OwnCloud is available as open-source and als paid services. There is a overbooking of 20* (on average they expect the user to use 5GB). SURF needs 30,000 users for break-even, but the expect to get above the 100,000 users. On Friday there were less than 2,000 users (116 TU Delft users), but most institutions haven't started with the marketing.


I think this is a very good development of SURF to start with community cloud services and SURFdrive is a very good first product. I use it since 1,5 week and works as smoothly as Dropbox. I would everyone advice to use it, certainly if you are aware of the risks of using public cloud software.

Kamervragen over onze wiskunde-mooc

Pre University CalculusAfgelopen week heeft de Tweede Kamercommissie voor onderwijs een aantal vragen (13-17) gesteld naar aanleiding van het scienceguide artikel over onze pre-university calculus mooc. Hoewel het natuurlijk een hele eer is als we met zo'n initiatief door de politiek worden opgemerkt, zie je ook dat ze vragen gaan stellen op basis van halve informatie. Hieronder een toelichting, die het een en ander verduidelijkt.

De TU Delft ontwikkelt de Pre-University Calculus MOOC in het kader van het edX High School Initiative: 26 gratis online cursussen (MOOC’s) over uiteenlopende onderwerpen die deelnemers wereldwijd voorbereiden op een vervolgstudie. Dit initiatief richt zich op diverse vakgebieden; de TU Delft neemt de cursus Wiskunde voor haar rekening.

Bij veel bèta-opleidingen wereldwijd vinden studenten de wiskunde vaak pittig, bijvoorbeeld omdat het tempo een stuk hoger ligt dan ze gewend zijn. Met deze cursus willen wij hen helpen om voor aanvang van hun studie een goed beeld te krijgen van wat wiskunde aan een universitaire opleiding is, daar plezier in te krijgen en er optimaal op voorbereid te zijn. Dat kan ook de drempel richting bèta-en techniekopleidingen verlagen.

Hoewel de cursus dus niet specifiek wordt ontwikkeld voor Nederlandse studenten, denken we dat het ook voor hen nuttig kan zijn. De cursus kan hen helpen om een beter inzicht te krijgen in wiskunde waardoor ze het vak met meer plezier zullen volgen. Als ze de MOOC gebruiken om de elementaire wiskunde die ze nodig hebben nog even op te halen voor het collegejaar begint, zullen ze in veel gevallen een vlottere start kunnen maken met hun universitaire studie.

De cursus start in de zomer van 2015. Op dit moment hebben zich al zo’n 1500 deelnemers uit 113 landen aangemeld voor de cursus. De meeste van hen komen uit de VS en India. Uit Nederland zijn er nu zo’n 70 inschrijvingen; waarschijnlijk zijn dat voor een groot deel TU-medewerkers en wiskunde docenten. 

TU Delft introduces online courses for professionals

TU Delft introduces online courses for professionals

CybersecurityFrom January 2015, TU Delft will be offering online Professional Education courses. These professional education courses can be followed worldwide and are intended for people who already have several years of work experience and who want to continue their education alongside their work. Together with MIT Sloan School of Management and Rice University, TU Delft is one of the first institutions to offer these ProfEd courses on EdX. The first ProfEd course is ‘Economics of Cybersecurity’. 

Many of our partner universities currently offer professional education—online, on campus or on-site at corporations—in a variety of subject areas. Corporations have approached edX and our partners looking for specialized courses to arm their employees with knowledge necessary to stay at the forefront of their industries.
Our partners will now be able to bring their professional education to a broader learner base for significantly less cost to both employers and their employees. EdX professional education will enable organizations and universities to leverage the edX platform and use our cutting-edge technology to deliver courses to help advance professionals’ careers, increase workplace effectiveness and maintain professional credentialing at a lower price for organizations and individuals.
From executive and continuing education to corporate and management training, edX professional education covers a wide variety of disciplines. Subject areas will include leadership, IT, business, education, engineering, communications, energy, big data and more.

This is a next step in the development of the TU Delft Extension School. We are working on expanding our portfolio for online courses.

Cybersecurity Course

The first course we opened up is the course on Cybersecurity. This course is not focusing on the technical part of cybersecurity, but more on the economics:

EconSec101x offers a broad view of the field through lectures and exercises on empirical data that can apply to both early career professionals as well as senior technical managers. After finishing this course you will be able to apply economic analysis and data analytics. You will understand the role played by incentives on the adoption and effectiveness of security mechanisms, and on the design of technical, market-based, and regulatory solutions to different security threats.

Below is the introduction video of the course with professor Michel van Eeten.

LMS vs. Open Discussion

D'Arcy Norman started an interesting discussion about the false binary of LMS vs. Open. Here are some interesting responses:

In the past I used to be responsible for the Blackboard system of our university. Since a couple of years I'm responsible for the Open Education activities of the university. So this is an discussion that interests me. So here my two cents.

First of all I strongly agree with D'Arcy about the false framing of VLE versus Open. I also think that this frame doesn't benefit either side.

Secondly, I agree that most LMSs (aka VLE) look the same and users have the same objections against them. Some of theme will always complain about the institutional systems their university offers. As Goerge Kroner writes "LMSs remain the most important components of online learning technology for the vast majority of higher education institutions, and LMSs are more open today than they’ve ever been (of course as long as institutions don’t lock them down)."

Thirdly, the educational world is changing. As Phill Hill has posted in his slides there are 4 reasons to consider:

  1. The world around the LMS has changed
  2. The concept of interoperability has changed
  3. Open Education and MOOCs
  4. Just now getting broad LMS adoption

According to Phil we are just now moving into new concept of Learning Platform. I agree with that and see this happening at my own university.

Fourthly, there isn't any Learning Platform out there. So as a university we have to a three options:

  1. Stick with Blackboard
  2. Switch over to another system that might become the Learning Platform we need
  3. Build it ourselves.

I don't believe in option 3 for a single university and I have seen many failures in doing this with multiple universities. So there are two options left. And that is what we are investigating at this moment.

TU Delft participating in EdX High School Initiative

TU Delft participating in EdX High School Initiative

Last week, edX announced their new high school initiative: 26 MOOCs specifically geared to the needs and interests of high school students around the world. As edX CEO Anant Agarwal wrote in the announcement:

Studies show that nearly 60 percent of first-year U.S. college students are unprepared for postsecondary studies. This readiness gap between college eligibility and preparedness is costly not only to students, but also to families and institutions.

Our new initiative will address this severe gap and help alleviate these costly disparities, while also meeting the needs of edX learners who have expressed interest in additional entry-level college course offerings – 90 percent of edX learners according to a 2013 survey.

As I’ve written about in the past, these courses could also provide a path to life-long continuous education, where students come into college after having taken their first-year subjects through MOOCs or other AP* courses, study on campus for two years, then enter the workforce to gain real-world skills, taking MOOCs, community college courses or other online courses as needed throughout their career.

Covering subject areas that range from mathematics to science, English and history, and even college advising and AP onramps, edX high school MOOCs will provide students within the U.S. and around the world the opportunity to pursue challenging, advanced coursework. Currently, 22 high school courses are open for registration, and all 26 will launch within a few months.

TU Delft is contributing the course Pre-University Calculus. Delft is the only European university that is particpating in this initiative. The enrollment of the course has started and you can enroll here.

Special edition on didactics of Open and Online Education

CoverSURF and the Open Education Special Interest Group published a special report  on the didactics of open and online education. SURF organised a ‘pressure cook’ session on the didactics of open and online education on 24 June 2014. The aim of this meeting was to quickly get to the bottom of the key issues, solutions, opportunities and requirements surrounding this current topic with a number of experts and pioneers, focusing on: what are the do’s & don’ts? My colleague Sofia Dopper participated in this session.

This special edition contains three articles and three intermezzos. To start us off, Marjolein van Trigt describes the key outcomes of the ‘pressure cook’ session. In addition to this, the report features an in-depth article by Peter Sloep (Open Universiteit) on this theme. Hanneke Duisterwinkel (Eindhoven University of Technology), Pierre Gorissen (Fontys University of Applied Sciences) and Robert Schuwer (Fontys University of Applied Sciences/Open Universiteit) describe how experiences with this theme differ in higher professional education and academic education. The intermezzos bring together the background literature, present a framework for setting up high- quality online education, and feature a number of pitches from the ‘pressure cook’ session.

Download report

PhD Positions for research MOOCs and Online Education

An important part of our newly established Delft Extension School  is Research and Innovation. Under the leadership of our Dean and Director of Education we have a couple of existing faculty that are involved in this, but we are also hiring new people. The first two job openings are now available.


Researcher Learning Analytics

The research to be conducted will largely be data-driven, using and improving technologies developed within various areas of computer science including web data management, data
analytics and user modeling. It will be inspired by the big data challenges that MOOCs offer. As a researcher you will be hosted, supported, and supervised by the Web Information Systems
Group within the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science. The group has made significant research contributions in user modeling and data analytics within the last few years and will provide the researcher with a large support network and extensive research experience. Additionally, the position is also part of the Open & Online Education team and associated with the Delft Extension School, enabling direct access to education practitioners.

We are looking for a researcher (PhD or Postdoc level),

Deadline: 15 October 2014. More information is available here.

Automatic Assessment and Feedback for Online Assignments

The research in this position will focus on methods and techniques for the design and implementation of automatic assessment of and feedback on assignments in online courses. An assessment should reflect a student’s understanding of the course material, feedback should provide the student with detailed explanations of an assessment, and tutoring should help a student improve that understanding. This requires a thorough analysis of the student’s work. In traditional education environments, this analysis is carried out directly by instructors who can apply the amazing pattern matching and cognitive faculties of the human brain. However, this approach does not scale to the numbers of students of MOOCs, and is already challenged by large regular courses at universities. Automating assessment, feedback, and tutoring requires that we formalize the ‘assessment function’ that is applied by instructors.

We are looking for a PhD student.

Deadline: 15 November 2014. More information is available here.

New Directions for the LMS

Educause just release a new edition of the 7 Things you should know. This one is about the new directions for the LMS. The abstract:

Most of today’s learning management systems were developed in an era when virtually all of higher education was organized around courses and credit hours. Changes in pedagogy, new models of learning, and new opportunities made possible by technology have outpaced developments in LMSs. In response, LMSs are beginning to evolve toward being platforms on which a college or university can build a learning ecosystem. By being learner focused, future LMSs are more likely to meet the needs of institutions and students and to accommodate the new structures of higher education, including developments such as competency-based education, prior-learning assessment, badging, and others.

One of the things is the name. Currently we have started a project to select a replacement for our existing system. We called the project Collaboration & Learning Environment (CLE). This name better reflects what we expect in our new system than the traditional names such as CMS, LMS, and VLE.

The changing requirements at TU Delft are based on our activities to offer online education in the same system as campus and blended courses.


Seminar over MOOC-platforms

Op 8 oktober organiseert SURF een seminar over welke platforms je voor MOOCs kan gebruiken. Namens de TU Delft zal Janine Kiers ingaan op het gebruik van EdX:

In deze bijeenkomst komen platforms aan de orde die gebruikt kunnen worden voor het aanbieden van massive open online courses. Op welk platform zou je MOOC’s kunnen ontsluiten die je vanuit je eigen onderwijsinstelling wilt aanbieden? En wat kun je doen als je een MOOC van de betreffende platforms wilt integreren in je eigen onderwijs?

Het seminar is gratis, maar je moet je wel aanmelden via de website.

OER Beyond Voluntarism

At the 2014 Knewton Symposium David Wiley made the bold claim that "in the near future, 80 percent of textbooks would be replaced by OER content." This statement led to some interesting discussion about the Open Education Resources ecosystem.

It started with the article of Jose Ferreira. He argues that publishers have nothing to worry about, because OER has low production values, no instructional design and is not enterprise grade.  Offcourse David Wiley had to respond and did a very good job at it. According to David OER can beat publishers on both price and learning outcomes.

The next one in line was Michael Feldstein. In his respond he focused on the business model. According to Michael neither the OER advocates nor the textbook publishers have a working economic model right now:

"The textbook publishers were very successful for many years but have grown unsustainable cost structures which they can no longer prop up through appeals to high production values and enterprise support. But the OER advocates have not yet cracked the sales and marketing nut or proven out revenue models that enable them to do what is necessary to drive adoption at scale."

His conclusion to the question whether OER can "break the textbook industry", his answer is "it depends".

The last article of this discussion is of Brain Jacobs. He compares the development of the Open Source Software (OSS) Movement with OER. Nowadays, most of the OSS development is by commercial companies (like Red Hat, Google, Samsung), but it started with a foundation of voluntarism in the hacker community. He argues that the OER 'hackers' community does not have the depth and breadth of its OSS counterpart.

I agree with that. For most instructors, the textbook is a convenient package, without which the task of managing a class would be that much more laborious. They don't care about the costs of the book. Students are the victims of this. More and more students (or their parents) have problems with paying for all their textbooks.

Brain suggests a solution to get faculty to contribute to the OER ecosystem:

"A better way forward is to compensate the stakeholders -- faculty, copyright holders, and technologists, principally -- for their contributions to the OER ecosystem. This can be done by charging students nominally for the OER courses they take or as a modest institutional materials fee. When there are no longer meaningful costs associated with the underlying content, it becomes possible to compensate faculty for the extra work while radically reducing costs to students."

I agree with Brain's assessment of the different nature of voluntarism of OSS and OER. With TU Delft OpenCourseWare we have done compensated teachers from the start in 2007. The faculty that contribute their course content get a financial compensation for their extra work.

Altogether this is an interesting discussion and will help move the OER movement towards a bright future. I'm looking forward to discuss this at the OpenEd Conference in November.

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