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OpenCases: the TU Delft case study

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OpenCases is a study which is part of the OpenEdu Project. It is a qualitative study consisting of a review of literature on open education and nine in-depth case studies of higher education institutions, a consortium of universities, a private organisation and a national initiative. It analysed the rationale and enabling conditions for involvement in open education, open education activities, strategies, impact, challenges and prospects. The main outcome of this study is evidence that a large number of OER have reached a large group of learners. However, completion rates of MOOCs are low. Accreditation is not formalised and in general its impact on employability is not measured.

Established in 1842, Delft University of Technology (Delft) is the largest and oldest Dutch public technical university and a high-ranking university worldwide in the areas of engineering and technology. Delft started its institutional engagement with open education in 2006, and today it is heavily engaged in open education within the institution and outside, through representation in the leadership structures of various open education networks. Delft is particularly active in the area of open teaching. Here, Delft has a long-term engagement in providing Open Courseware (OCW), and more recently MOOCs. Delft’s reported that its engagement with open education is based on its conception of publicly financed higher education as a ‘public good’. Teaching resources and research that are paid for through public funds should be made available openly. Open education is also seen as an important tool to widen participation in higher education, which Delft staff reported to consider a central social justice concern to which the university needs to respond to. Delft open teaching initiatives are widely used: its OCW website has had over 1 million unique visitors (1,300 per day currently), and Delft has registered around 865,000 enrolments in its MOOCs. The university has made over 10,000 lectures available via OCW and i-Tunes.

Delft leadership is clear that academics need support to take part in open education. This has materialised in investment in e-learning officers, teaching assistants’ time -in order to help prepare courses to go online-, or even graphic designers to improve MOOC slides given the marketing effect of open education. Delft also provides a range of guidance documents to its academics, so that they “know-how” to participate in open education.

Delft has a well-structured approach to quality assurance for open education materials, which in addition to standard University procedures entails evaluation by e-learning officers, checking of beta versions by students and staff, pre and post participation questionnaires and the production of summary reports containing lessons learnt.

Delft reported to currently invest around 4 million Euro per year in the delivery of its open, online and blended courses and a small research team on open education. Delft believes that there is no scope from simply selling content, so it makes content available for free. Income can be generated from other services around the content that is shared for free: certification, top-up courses or on-campus provision for example. As such, the university has put in place a range of strategies to create income streams from or in association with its open education initiatives: • from MOOCs and -to a much lesser extent- OCW certification, • third-party use of its open education materials for commercial purposes, • activities in the area of professional education and continuing education, • attraction of additional students to its regular courses, and • externally funded research projects.

The objective of the creation of these income streams is to generate resources that can be reinvested in open education. Open education was reported to drive up Delft’s capacity for innovation, recruitment (with a conversion rate from MOOC participation into application for a Delft regular course at around 0.1% in two courses for which data is available), teaching quality (there is evidence of its potential to improve Delft students’ pass rates, average marks and satisfaction), and visibility and reputation in an increasing competitive global higher education landscape.

In terms of open research, Delft has collaborated mainly with Dutch universities in the preparation of position papers and in lobbying in favour of open research, and the creation of an open data centre in the Netherlands. It also has an institutional research repository and encourages open access publication through the payment of fees to make articles open access, negotiations with publishers and the provision of information on open access journals to its academics. Delft has developed open software solutions for a variety of purposes.

The information gathered for this case study underlined that a challenge for open education is to ensure that its widening participation agenda is not completely subsumed by the other benefits generated by open education (reputation, visibility, income generation). Other challenges for open education, identified by Delft, are its need to become better known and used by politicians and the design of a series of incentives – which could take the form of inclusion of open education in university rankings, as well as a variety of other measures- and support structures to stimulate universities and enable academics to be engaged with open education. This is seen as a particularly important point for Europe, where institutions are lagging behind in open education compared to institutions in other areas of the world.

Future areas of work for Delft on open education could include the inclusion of MOOCs as independent parts of its own curriculum (instead of being a tool to support classroom based provision through blended learning and flipped classroom strategies) and further development of its open management, an area that the university has not explored in detail.

The full document is available online at http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC101533/jrc101533_opencases%20case%20studies%20on%20openness%20in%20education.pdf.

This extract comes from the the OpenCases: Case Studies on Openness in Education document which states that reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. Source: Souto-Otero, M., Inamorato dos Santos, A., Shields, R., Lažetić, P., Castaño-Muñoz, J., Devaux, A., Oberheidt, S., Punie, Y. (2016) OpenCases: Case Studies on Openness in Education. Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Joint Research Centre, European Commission. EUR 27937 EN, doi:10.2791/039825


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