Cost of Education, Education Quality, International, Open Source Education, Required, University & College - Written by on Friday, March 9, 2012 9:37 - 0 Comments

Heard: Will Europe’s Universities Embrace The Free, OpenCourseware Model … Or Remain Timid?

by alicepopkorn via flickr under cc

Jack Grove writes in the Times Of London education portal about those in favor of European universities following the open courseware model that is gaining popularity on both sides of the pond. He quotes those who argue such open source learning will improve the global standing of the universities that participate in this experiment. He writes:

Only a handful of UK higher education institutions – the University of Nottingham, The Open University and parts of the University of Oxford – have set up freely available educational collections since the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pioneered the idea in 2002.

But Anka Mulder, president of the OpenCourseWare Consortium Europe, said it was time for universities and nations to embrace the learning model and reap its rewards. European universities have been reluctant to open up their resources to all comers. Of the consortium’s 260 members, only 53 are European (of which 35 are Spanish universities).

“We have the infrastructure and everyone is online, but it has just not taken off in Europe yet,” said Dr Mulder, secretary general of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Dr. Mulder notes that open courseware is moving faster in Asian countries such as China and Korea, where it enjoys strong governmental support. The fear in Europe, Grove writes, is that universities are competing against each other for limited resources. These universities worry they  might lose students if the curriculum is available free online. Dr. Mulder argues that they should not worry:

“Universities offer much more added value,” Dr Mulder said. “They have teachers that help students understand the materials, many other services and the value of diplomas. It is naive to think this is where universities will compete.

“At Delft, we are not afraid that we will lose our position in the market because of this. In fact, we think it gives Delft an even better reputation because people will see the quality of our material online.”

The movement took a great leap forward in December when MIT said it would provide (and charge for) certification for students who can prove they have completed open courses. Dr. Mulder said such initiatives may become widespread. “Someone who did not have the resources, for example, to come to Delft to do a master’s in water management could learn from us, too,” she said. “These valuable resources could be used by people in Africa and Asia, and we are happy to teach those people as well.

She said that if the EU member states want to increase higher education participation to 40% and spend less money doing so, EU countries must embrace opencourseware more wholeheartedly. At present, she said the world would have to build three new universities a week to keep up with booming global demand.

via The London Times

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