UNESCO has estimated that by 2025, an additional 80 million people will want to have access to higher education than today. To meet that demand by deployment of conventional offline universities would imply building three universities to accommodate 40.000 students on a weekly basis.
“Online education is not an option, but a compelling requirement”, says Dr. Anka Mulder, Vice-President for Education & Operations (Delft University of Technology) with regard to the upcoming International Conference ‘European Higher Education in the World‘ in Vilnius, Lithuania on the 5th of September.
Glimpsing the depth and breath
TU Delft started experimenting with OpenCourseWare and online courses in 2006. OpenCourseWare offers all course materials free to everyone with online access. Educators from around the world may upgrade their classes; students may enhance their coursework or pursue self-study; the general public may glimpse the depth and breadth of what leading universities are offering and benefit from reading lists and lectures.
“This all sounds very nice. Modernising education in Europe and in the world poses great challenges for education systems as well as universities. It is not easy to succeed by using the internet for education. There are many worldwide initiatives and an exchange of ideas and best practices is welcome. However, action is urgently required“, says Dr. Anka Mulder.
Intensified effort needed
TU Delft digitally records 70 to 100 courses per week and counts 7.000 to 10.000 viewers. “An intensified effort to provide for online education may be helpful in countering the current massive youth unemployment in many EU countries. Online education may enable many to adapt some of their employability skills faster and cheaper than before“, declares Dr. Anka Mulder.
In her opinion the most talented online course teachers could soon become a special breed of research and social media influencers with far larger communities than an average-sized full lecture hall. According to some studies, word of mouth remains the best marketing and branding for products and services, in an increasingly online world as well.
One of the biggest challenges is prevention of cheating in online education. According to research in 2011 Dutch students showed that 15% of the college students and 10% of academic students admitted to cheating on their exams at some point during their academic studies. Students are creative with all high-tech devices (e.g. blue tooth earphones) that they have at their disposal.
Ironically, blue tooth technology is an invention of a TU Delft engineer. “Let’s face it, offline cheating happens too. Software packages are selected and deployed to ensure maximum integrity of online education“, says Dr. Anka Mulder.
Dr. Anka Mulder will give the presentation ‘Online Resources’ at the Vilnius Conference. The conference will bring together over 150 higher education stakeholders from the EU and beyond, and offer them an opportunity for dialogue on the different tools available to further internationalisation processes, and on the future place of Europe in the global higher education landscape.
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