Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement

This summer Philip guo, an assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, spend time at EdX as visiting research scientist.

In his research he looked at video usage, obtained from analyses of a few edX math and science courses. According to his findings the optimal video length is 6 minutes or shorter.

If you look at the classroom we all know that the attention span of a student is not 45 minutes, but what the exact attention span is, is not clear. Some say it is variable, others say it is 10-15 minutes.

The general rule is shorter is better as shown in this blog post.

The Potential for Online Learning: Promises and Pitfalls

William G. Bowen has written an interesting article about online learning in EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 48, no. 5 (September/October 2013). William G. Bowen is President Emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, President Emeritus of Princeton University, and Founding Chairman of Ithaka/JSTOR. He is also the author of the book Higher Education in the Digital Age:

To realize the potential and promise of online learning (and MOOCs), colleges and universities must be aware of the pitfalls while taking full advantage of the wonderful, if problematic, opportunities provided by ingenuity and technological prowess.

In his article he discusses 8 propositions:

  1. We need to distinguish among target populations.
  2. Different pedagogies are right for different disciplines.
  3. A limited degree of "local" customization of online courses is important and should be facilitated.
  4. It is critically important that we assemble more real evidence, from more rigorous research, concerning the learning outcomes associated with online offerings.
  5. We must focus self-consciously, and relentlessly, on controlling educational costs.
  6. System-wide thinking is required; many of the most challenging questions for our educational system cannot be addressed on a single-campus basis.
  7. New thinking is needed on faculty roles and on optimal organizational and decision-making mechanisms.
  8. Stratification worries deserve much more attention than they receive.

I share his opinion he makes in the final note of the article:

I am optimistic that the world at large will be a far better place because of online learning—and because of MOOCs. But for that to happen, we need to be able to take full advantage of the wonderful, if problematic, opportunities provided by ingenuity and technological prowess. And we must include in our calculations the needs of the less privileged. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves where all of this is heading and what the real consequences will be—not just for the privileged but for society writ large.

Via: Wilfred Rubens

Learning Analytics in het Hoger Onderwijs: mogelijkheden en aandachtspunten

In 2012 heeft de TU Delft mee gedaan aan grassrootsprojecten als onderdeel van de Innovatieregeling Learning Analytics 2012. De evaluatie van deze projecten is nu beschikbaar als het artikel: Learning analytics in het hoger onderwijs: mogelijkheden en aandachtspunten’.

Wat is learning analytics?

Onder learning analytics vallen alle analyses en onderzoeken die zich bezighouden met “het meten, verzamelen, analyseren en rapporteren van data van studenten en hun omgeving met als doel het leren en de leeromgeving te begrijpen en te optimaliseren” (Siemens, 2011). In het onderwijs worden enorme hoeveelheden data gegenereerd die afkomstig zijn van studenten en docenten. De analyse van deze gegevens kan hogescholen en universiteiten onder meer inzicht verschaffen in: • het studiegedrag van studenten• de kwaliteit van het gebruikte onderwijsmateriaal• het gebruik van de digitale leer- en werkomgeving• de kwaliteit van toetsitems• de studievoortgangMet deze kennis kunnen instellingen interventies plegen om het onderwijs te verbeteren.


De aanbevelingen uit het rapport zijn:

  • Werk samen en bundel expertise
  • Onderzoek de juridische en ethische aspecten
  • Bied een overzicht van tools en good practices
  • Zet learning analytics in voor feedback

Data-driven Campus LMS Strategy

An interesting blogpost of Edutechnica. Based on open data they created a dataset of all universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia including their enrollment numbers, geographical coordinates, and URLs. That was not all, they went further. With a combination of Google’s search API, Microsoft’s Bing search API, and a number of open source software libraries they crawled each university’s web site to identify the primary LMS (or in more than 200 cases, multiple primary LMSs) in use. After some clean up, they came with interesting numbers:

More information and details on their blog.

Netwerkdag SIG Open Education

Kom ook naar de netwerkdag van de special interest group Open Education en ontmoet collega’s die actief zijn op het terrein van open educational resources, open education en MOOC's. Tijdens de netwerkdag is er volop gelegenheid om ervaringen uit te wisselen en van elkaar te leren. Daarnaast zal Timo Kos (TU Delft) de laatste ontwikkelingen op het gebied van open education schetsen en licht Adrie Steenbrink de visie van het ministerie van OCW op deze ontwikkelingen toe.

Meer informatie en aanmelden: https://events.surf.nl/link/event/1725

France launches national MOOC platform based on open.edx

FUNWednesday the French Ministry of Higher Education announced the launch of France Universite Numerique (French Digital University), a national MOOC platform which is funded by the ministry.

Over 100 higher education institutions throughout France will participate in the new national MOOC portal. The first 20 courses will be launched at the end of October and will start in January 2014.

The platform is based on the open-source platform of EdX. This year the edX platform has also been adopted by the International Monetary Fund to deliver a pair of courses that will be offered to government representatives and opened to the public in 2014 and by Aspiring Minds, an Indian company that helps individuals improve their skills for greater employability.

For us, as EdX Consortium member, it is also benificial. There will be more developers working on the code.

The Dutch minister of education is working on a position paper on MOOCs (and online education). I'm interested if they will do a similar step in this direction.

European MOOCs Scoreboard

MOOC ScoreboardAs part of the OpenEducationEurope portal the European Commission also created an European MOOCs Scoreboard. If I look at the scoreboard I have the idea that 276 European MOOCs are not correct. The number seems to high to me.

For example I looked at my own country. According to the scoreboard, we have 12 MOOCs. If I count the MOOCs on their platform I only see:

  • Amsterdam 1
  • Delft 2
  • Leiden 2
  • OpenUniversiteit 2

This totals to 7. This number is also the number that I know of.

If this difference is representative for all the data, we only have about 150 MOOCs in Europe. So we are much more behind that the EC thinks.

Completion rates are a false measuring of course quality

Alastair Creelman and Linda Renland-Forsman have written an interesting paper on completion rates in online courses:

Statistics are often used to reveal significant differences between online and campus-based education. The existence of online courses with low completion rates is often used to justify the inherent inferiority of online education compared to traditional classroom teaching. Our study revealed that this type of conclusion has little substance. We have performed three closely linked analyses of empirical data from Linnaeus University aimed at reaching a better understanding of completion rates. Differences in completion rates revealed themselves to be more substantial between faculties than between distribution forms. The key-factor lies in design. Courses with the highest completion rates had three things in common; active discussion forums, complementing media and collaborative activities. We believe that the time has come to move away from theoretical models of learning where web-based learning/distance learning/e-learning are seen as simply emphasizing the separation of teacher and students. Low completion rates should instead be addressed as a lack of insight and respect for the consequences of online pedagogical practice and its prerequisites.

According to the authors we should call in the HEROEs: Highly Empowered Resourceful Online Educators. Which means once and for all abandoning a consumerist approach to education applying a meaning-oriented approach.

Their conclusion is that the low completion rates of many online courses and in particular today’s mainstream MOOCs is not a credible gauge of course quality. We need to move the focus from a simplistic head count to developing strategies for increased interaction, collaboration and collective responsibility in online learning – HEROES could do the trick.

Alastair Creelman, Linda Reneland-Forsman (2013). Completion Rates – A False Trail to Measuring Course Quality? Let’s Call in the HEROEs Instead. In European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning 2013/II.

Start of DelftX MOOC

Yesterday we organised an informal launch event for our DelftX MOOCs. With the push of the button of the two teachers the courses opened at 13.30 (Delft time).Nearly 70,000 students are now able to enjoy learning about Solar Energy and Water Treatment.


We also made a short video of the event:

First day

The first day is always very exciting. The courses we have been working on the last months is live and now we have to see if it all works out.

We had some small hickups, but overall it worked as expected. The forums are actively used and seem to be vibrant and cheerful.

Start of DelftX MOOCs

Tomorrow at 13.30 (Delft time) the first two MOOCs (Solar Energy and Introduction to Water Treatment) of Delftx will start. The last couple of months we have been working hard to organise the production process of our MOOCs and helping the faculty with creating a great learning experience for our MOOCs.


The enrolments of our MOOCs have been steadily increasing. In total we start with more than 66,000 students: 44k for Solar and 22k for water. You can still enroll.

Update 16/9 : Solar has 45k and water has 22.5k.

Enrolments DelftX

Background of students

If you look at the background of the students, most students have a Bachelor's degree. Solar Energy attracks more secondary/high school students than Water Treatment.

Level of education Delftx

Our water course attracks more female students (28%) than solar (16%).

The next two MOOCs

We already started with the next two MOOCs that will run in the spring of 2014:

  • Introduction of Aerospace Engineering
  • Next Generation Infrastructures (about the social and technical complexity of infrastructure systems in the 21th century)

Enrolment will open this month.


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