The MOOC project at UM

Why a MOOC at UM?

There’s a lot of buzz about Massive Open Online Courses in the academic world. Some praise them as an excellent way to give people who are genuinely interested in learning access to some of the best professors in the world. Others criticise them for their old-fashioned passive learning design, their large drop-out and for hindering the development of academic inquiry because students aren’t able to engage with the professors. But the nay-sayers aren’t stopping MOOCs from growing in popularity. And Maastricht University wants to explore their potential in new ways. We want to bring the principles of PBL online and see what the best ways are to engage MOOC participants so they can get the best learning experience possible.

Project goals

This PBL MOOC is a university-wide project with collaborators from different faculties. In this project, we hope to:

  • gain experience in implementing tools for online education
  • explore the implications of offering open online education for services and facilities for UM students, staff and the surrounding community
  • continue leading in learning by developing new models, guidelines and ideas for PBL
  • facilitate research on MOOCs and their underlying educational models

What are MOOCs?

MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses that are offered for free. They’re aimed at attracting a large number of students, so interaction with the teacher(s) is limited. Often video lectures and/or other study materials are offered, sometimes in combination with exercises. Interaction between students is usually stimulated using social media, daily digests by e-mail, peer feedback on assignments, etc. Networking is often an important goal for participants.

Fees and certificates

As they have no entrance requirements, MOOCs rarely offer an official certification. Most are completely free, but lately some have also used mixed models where participants have free access, but can choose to pay for licensed study materials, an exam with a certificate, or support from a teacher. There are currently two main types of MOOCs: XMOOCs, which follow a more traditional informational delivery model and CMOOCs, which are based on connectivist models of learning.

Target audience

Some MOOCs are part of an existing (largely face-to-face) curriculum, while others target post-academic students. Many are set-up with other goals entirely, ranging from attracting future students or generating publicity to preparing for a conference or building a community. MOOCs target a large audience, but the drop-out rate is typically 85-95%.

Will MOOCs change education at UM?

MOOCs are a global trend and many claim that they might change the whole concept of higher education. It’s likely that the trend of MOOCs will influence education at Maastricht University, but how and to what extent is not clear. This project was initiated to start finding answers to common questions such as:

  • Can we use MOOCs to help us better serve our students, staff and community? And if so, how?
  • How can we combine the sound principles of PBL with the openness and flexibility of MOOCs?
  • How can we implement MOOCs without overburdening our academic staff and our limited budgets?

Project deliverables

The deliverables of this project are:

  • a platform for future MOOCs
  • a test bed for research related to MOOCs
  • one MOOC designed in such a way that it can be repeated or made available repeatedly
  • recommendations regarding the combination of MOOCs and PBL
  • recommendations regarding the potential role of MOOCs in the context of UM

Project team

The university-wide project team is composed of people from different faculties, listed in alphabetical order: Paul Adriaans, Denis Ancion, Ellen Bastiaens, Lex Borghans, Anique de Bruin, Geraldine Clarebout, Thomas Cleij, Amber Dailey, Wilfred van Dellen, Diana Dolmans, Jeroen Donkers, Odin Essers, Corrie Eurlings, Herco Fonteijn, Bart Golsteyn, Willem de Grave, Angelique van den Heuvel, Harm Hospers, Nynke de Jong, Chris Keurentjes, Menno Knetsch, Geert Konijnendijk, Mariëtte van Loon, Heidi Maurer, Lars Mennen, Jeroen van Merriënboer (project chair), Gaby Odekerken, Annabel Reker, Catherine de Rijdt, Caroline Roulaux, Annemarie Spruijt, Susan Stead, Daniëlle Verstegen (project leader), Margje van der Wiel.

The project team thanks the Executive Board of Maastricht Univerisity and UM EdLab for supporting the MOOC project.

Online resources

Additional references

  • Bussemaker, J. (2013). Open en online hoger onderwijs (Brief aan de Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, Referentie 581269). Den Haag, The Netherlands: Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap. (In Dutch).
  • McAndrews, P. & Scanlon, E. (2013). Open Learning at a Distance: Lessons for Struggling MOOCs, Science, 342, 1450-1451.
  • Waldrom, M.M. (2013). Campus 2.0: Massive open online courses are transforming higher education – and providing fodder for scientific research. Nature, 495, 160-165.