A Review of the Recent Literature on MOOCs and Quality

A Review of the Recent Literature on MOOCs and Quality

Sarah Hayes has written an interesting report about MOOCs and Quality. She wrote this report in commission for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) in the UK. This literature review presents a number of different perspectives from a broad range of sources relating to the nature of MOOCs and pertinent considerations of quality.

The report gives a good overview of MOOCs and quality. I agree with Sarah that with each new learning innovation, MOOCs present the possibility of new approaches to education, but the promises now need to be evaluated to see what can be delivered in the longer term, on a sustainable basis and with what implications for HEIs and for the assurance of quality.

Download report

Job opening for 2 eLearning developers

Job opening for 2 eLearning developers

Do you want to be part of innovating education with online education? Help us to become a world leader in online education? Educate the world! We are looking for 2 eLearning Developers to join our (international) team!

TU Delft

Delft University of Technology is the leading University of Technology in the Netherlands with a global reputation in the fields of science, engineering & design. TU Delft’s mission is to make a significant contribution towards a sustainable society for the twenty-first century by conducting ground-breaking scientific and technological research which is acknowledged as world-class, by training scientists and engineers with a genuine commitment to society and by helping to translate knowledge into technological innovations and activity with both economic and social value.

Open & Online Education

TU Delft has been a forerunner in the field of Open & Online Education since 2007, and is one of the sustaining members of the Open Education Consortium and since 2013 charter member of the EdX Consortium. In March 2014, the board of the TU Delft approved a 3-year innovation program to accelerate the development of open & online education. The goal is to educate the world by creating an online learning portfolio with open & online courses for a global population of life long learners. Our courses are listed on https://online-learning.tudelft.nl.

Job description

As eLearning Developer you will be part of the (international) Extension School team, which supports and leads the online learning developments of the university. You will create advanced eLearning modules that will be part of the TU Delft Online Learning portfolio. The Extension School delivers MOOCs, Professional Education, blended and online education (bachelor and master level) to a worldwide audience. You will have considerable experience designing and developing online & blended education courses.

In this role you will partner with and support the academic staff to create outstanding open and online courses. Your project management skills contribute to your success in this role as you will be responsible for managing multiple projects. Together with a team of eLearning developers you will also work on constantly improving course designs and deliveries.

  • Devise complex technical methods and processes to meet new and unique eLearning and web requirements and resolve technical problems.
  • Ability to work independently. Ability to interact effectively with various faculty members in the TU Delft organization.
  • Recognize, recommend and participate in the development of standards and procedures that support quality improvement in the Delft Extension School and products for our students.
  • Provide project management for e-learning projects with tight deadlines. These projects bring together people from various departments and backgrounds to develop content, technical specifications and functional prototypes for the Extension School.
  • Provide training to faculty on developing and teaching online courses.
  • Meet all internal deadlines according to project plan regardless of project limitations.


  • Master of Education (M.Ed) in Instructional Design, Educational Technology or related experience plus 1 year recent curriculum design and/or course development experience in online education;
  • Demonstrate a keen sense of organization and attention to detail;
  • Demonstrated ability to handle unforeseen difficulties and obstacles with ease;
  • An excellent team player that is able to work on complex projects with a group of other course developers;
  • Ability to work on a tight, rapidly-changing schedule;
  • Experience with using ICT in education, such as digital assessment, e-moderating, online teaching methods and platforms;
  • A committed consultant with strong communication skills in English, mastery of Dutch is a plus;
  • Experience in higher education;
  • Experience as a teacher of open or online education is a plus.

For more information and application, please visit our official vacancies website. If you have questions you can contact me via contact form above.

Defining Blended Learning

The world of education is changing in the current internet age. That means that definitions of education are also needs to be updated. A definition that is commonly used is the one of the Sloan Consortium (2007) (nowadys known as Online Learning Consortium):

Course that blends online and face-to-face delivery. substantial proportion (30 to 79%) of the content is delivered online, typically uses online discussions, and typically has some face-to-face meetings.

Below is the full overview of their definitions from traditional to online education.

Defining Blended Learning
Definition (Sloan Consortium, 2007)

Defining blended within the TU Delft

Within the TU Delft we noticed that this definition was not working for the Extension School programme. there seemed two different kind of blended education:

  • traditional education adopted to blended learning
  • online learning adopted to blended learning

Both are called 'blended learning', but they were completely different and more important there seems to be a path from traditional education -> blended learning -> online learning. But in practice that path didn't lead to the online learning we want to offer (off course there are exceptions).

So we defined blended for the Extension School with a focus on the reuse of (open) online resources:

Blended education involves embedding online products, such as MOOCs, online courses or open educational resources in your campus course.

OLC Updated E-learning Definitions

Recently the Online Learning Consortium published an updated list of definitions. They list 7 types:

  1. Classroom Course – Course activity is organized around scheduled class meetings.
  2. Synchronous Distributed Course—Web-based technologies are used to extend classroom lectures and other activities to students at remote sites in real time.
  3. Web-Enhanced Course – Online course activity complements class sessions without reducing the number of required class meetings
  4. Blended (also called Hybrid) Classroom Course – Online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant percentage, but not all required face-to-face instructional activities.
  5. Blended (also called Hybrid) Online Course – Most course activity is done online, but there are some required face-to-face instructional activities, such as lectures, discussions, labs, or other in-person learning activities.
  6. Online Course – All course activity is done online; there are no required face-to-face sessions within the course and no requirements for on-campus activity.
  7. Flexible Mode Course – Offers multiple delivery modes so that students can choose which delivery mode(s) to use for instructional and other learning purposes.

In these new definitions the Consortium makes the same kind of distinction in blended as we did (compare 4 and 5). Furthermore, I think we have courses in all seven categories at our university.

There is more to blend

If you look at the definitions there are based on the mix of two types: online versus face-to-face. I agree with Steve Wheeler that there are much more modes of learning that you can blend. Some examples he lists are the mix between social and personal learning, between synchronous and asynchronous activities, between mobile and tethered learning experiences. I fully agree with his summary:

So blended learning is becoming an increasingly complex concept, with multiple possibilities and infinite options. Blended is about choice, and about maximising your learning in the modes you find most convenient. Learning in all its forms is a little like the blender in your kitchen. Put in the right ingredients, and use a little effort, and hopefully the result will turn out to be very useful.

Open Science and Education

Open Science and Education

More and more you hear about the term "Open Science". The term refers to developments in how science is becoming more open, accessible, efficient, democratic, and transparent, based on new, digital tools for scientific collaboration, experiments and analysis and which make scientific knowledge more easily accessible both for professionals and the general public.

After a public consult, the European Commission has adopted this term as well to replace the term Science 2.0. Last month Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation outlined the plans for "Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World".

Open Education

I think this is a very good initiative, but it is missing an important aspect. According to the plans we should do a much better job in bringing Science to Society, but there is no mentioning of Open Education. According to the Open Education Consortium "Open Education combines the traditions of knowledge sharing and creation with 21st century technology to create a vast pool of openly shared educational resources, while harnessing today’s collaborative spirit to develop educational approaches that are more responsive to learner’s needs."

The strength of (Open) Education is that it makes knowledge much more accessible for a general public. It is not only about sharing (publishing content), but really about learning. So to use the knowledge for learning new skills and competencies. That will really prepare the European citizens for the 21st century.

MOOCs as dissemination of research

A very good example of these are MOOCs,  or at least the open MOOCs. I'm not talking about the introduction courses on many subject, but on the advanced courses. A good example is one of our MOOCs on the subject of Topology in Condensed Matter: Tying Quantum Knots. This course ran this spring on EdX with 4,000 people. That doesn't sound like much (at least in comparison to our other MOOCs), but keep in mind that you need at least a Master in Physics, preferable a PhD to follow this course. All the course materials are also available outside of edx to make it even more accessible. The lecturers of this course are all involved with the research conducted at the Delft Kavli Institute on Quantum Computers.


Image: CC-BY 4.0 International License  Open Knowledge Foundation

DelftX MOOCs coming this fall

DelftX MOOCs coming this fall

This summer and fall we are running 11 MOOCs. There are couple of new courses and a lot of reruns of popular courses. We also offer two self-paced courses.
All reruns will be improved based on the evaluation of prior runs. For the evaluation we use data of edx, the data of the surveys and interviews with the involved people. Another 5 new MOOCs are being produced (but haven't been announced) and last Friday we approved 3 new MOOCs.

Full story »

Dutch boycott of Elsevier

Dutch boycott of Elsevier

Last week the Dutch universities decided to boycot Elsevier, because of the negotiations around open access. This is a mayor step in the battle for open.

As a first step in boycotting the publisher, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) has asked all scientists that are editor in chief of a journal published by Elsevier resign. If this way of putting pressure on the publishers does not work, the next step would be to ask reviewers to stop working for Elsevier. After that, scientists could be asked to stop publishing in Elsevier journals.

This is part of a bigger plan to move the Dutch science into the world of open.  Sander Dekker, the State Secretary  of Education has taken a strong position on Open Access. He has set two Open Access targets: 40% of scientific publications should be made available through Open Access by 2018, and 100% by 2024. The preferred route is through gold Open Access – where the work is ‘born Open Access’. This means there is no cost for readers – and no subscriptions.

If universities take these targets seriously, bold moves have to be made. This is such a move, more of those should follow! There are still a lot of scientists who are giving their copyright away without even thinking about open access. Steps like thise certainly helps in the awareness.


Image source: Twitter

New Website TU Delft Online Learning

New Website TU Delft Online Learning

Last week we officially launched the new website for online learning at Delft University of Technology. The website presents all the online courses of the university. This includes our MOOCs, Professional Education and master courses.

New Website TU Delft Online Learning
Screenshot of TU Delft Online Learning website


For the website we wanted a little bit more modern design than the current university website. After a selection, the design was made by Richard Straver of Webstudio MM. I'm very satisfied with the design. It follows the current trend of flat design. Not only does the design emphasize the courses, there is also a focus on our lecturers. Each lecturer has his or her own page which shows info about them and the courses they teach. As example the page of Ernst ten Heuvelhof. Nowadays your website is not only accessed with a browser on a pc or laptop, but also on tablet and mobile. So the design is completely responsive and will scale following the width of the screen.


Promo video

We also created a new promo video for TU Delft online learning. The video is featured on the homepage of the website. You can view it here:


 An important and difficult part of creating this website was the backend integration with the university administrative systems. Our systems are optimized for tuition-paying students that enroll for a full year on campus. This website is for people who are enrolling in a single course that is taught fully online and have to pay per course.

If you are a little bit familiar with system integration, you can understand that this can be quiet challenging. For now, we do something things manually because we didn't want to wait.

First enrolments

The website was live on Monday end of day and in the first week we already got the first enrolments in. Some of those enrolments we could connect to the newsletter we send out. It is really great that it all works and that the course offering we have is interesting for many people. Take a look at our courses and start learning!


What Reviews Reveal About Online Learning

What Reviews Reveal About Online Learning

What do course reviews suggest about what it takes to create a compelling online learning experience for students? CourseTalk, a “Yelp for MOOCs” company founded in 2012, has tallied more than 74,000 user ratings for over 7,500 courses from 46 providers to get a glimpse of what students are saying.

CourseTalk has made an analysis (PDF) of all reviewed courses in its catalog to uncover characteristics shared by top-rated courses, characteristics shared by low-rated courses, and other insights into online learning.

Interesting is their overview of refraining reviews:

What Reviews Reveal About Online Learning

Their overal findings are:

  • Reviews are predominantly positive
  • Reviewers complete courses
  • Reviewers who drop courses still give nearly 4 stars
  • Users are willing to pay for good courses
  • Classes with more reviews receive higher ratings
  • Ratings are not affected by course workload
  • A majority of CourseTalk users have experience in the subject they’re studying

Their conclusions are:

  • Providers should embrace reviews from unbiased, third-party sites as a way of promoting improved course selection and engagement.
  • They should not be afraid to charge for quality content.
  • Providers should make courses experiences clear, easy to navigate, fun, interactive, supportive and flexible.
  • They should focus on short course modules, but not hesitate to challenge students with heavier workloads where appropriate.

EdX is also using CourseTalk as review system. Reviews of TU Delft's courses are available here.

Via: EdSurge

Can we stop with new acronyms for online courses

The last couple of days I attended the EDEN15 conference in Barcelona. During a couple of sessions people mentioned alternative acronyms to MOOCs, such as mMOOC, cMOOC, sMOOC, xMOOC. Can we please stop with all these acronyms! It is a MOOC or an Online Course.

Online Courses

The starting point of designing an Online Course are the learning objectives you want students to reach. With those you will start designing the learning activities and assessment. In the design process you have to be aware of the context of the course, such as the subject, lecturers, duration, expected audience, language and more.

The result should be a high-quality online course that will help students reach their learning goals.


One of the specific feature of a MOOC is the massiveness. This means that in the design proces you will keep in mind that the course can be run with 500 students, but also with 50,000 students without extra teaching effort. This can also be useful for some campus courses, although the number will be a little bit smaller.


For me Open means free access (via internet) to the course AND the right (under some condition) to retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute the course materials. Unfortunately most moocs are limit to the first part.

US vs European MOOCs

In the European MOOC world there is a tendency to be very negative about the US MOOCs. I think that you underestimate the MOOCs on the US platforms and overestimate the European MOOCs. My experience is that on both sides of the pond there are really good MOOCs and really bad MOOCs. The quality of a MOOCs is not depending on the platform, but on the lecturers and the course development team.

The people that are affilitiated to the open universities express this negative thought quiet often. According yesterday's keynote speaker Alan Tait this has to do with that the introduction of MOOCs was very painful for the open universities: "Major MOOC platforms not from open universities". I think he has a very valid point here, open universities have always been in the lead in innovation in technology enhanced learing and now the 'conventional universities' are taking over. That must hurt!

EDEN Conference in Barcelona

EDEN Conference in Barcelona

This week I'm attending the annual conference of EDEN: European Distance and E-leearning Network. TU Delft has recently joined the network of more than 200 institutional members and more than 1200 members in the Network of Academics and Professionals (NAP).

This years conference will be in Barcelona and is hosted by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. The conference has some interesting keynotes speakers. Some of the speakers I'm looking forward too:

  • Xavier Prats Monné
    DG for Education and Culture of the European Commission. It is always good to hear the priorities of the EC.
  • Jim Groom
    Recently resigned his job at the University of Mary Washington to continue his work on Reclaim Hosting.
  • Audrey Watters
    the best EdTech journalist and interesting voice in the field op open education.
  • Stavros Panagiotis Xanthopoylos
    Vice-President ABED and my fellow board member at the Open Education Consortium.

Presentations of TU Delft

Off course we are not just consuming, but we are presenting too. Together with my collegaes Nelson Jorge and Sofia Dopper we have written a paper about defining a pedagogical model: the TU Delft Online Learning Experience. We will present this on Thursday morning in session D5 (room Salon 4) at 11.30-13.00.

On Wednesday the MOOCs4all project, in which we are participating is organising a workshop about low-cost production of moocs. Janine Kiers is organising this workshop with the others of the project. This session C3 is Wednesday afternoon at 16.30-18.00 in Salon 5.

Live Stream

If you can't attend the conference, it is possible to view the plenary sessions via the EDEN youtube channel. And there will be some tweeting with the hashtag #EDEN15.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 ... 117