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€1 million a year to enhance Dutch online education

Online education and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) received a sparkling endorsement from the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science this month after she committed €1 million a year to stimulate the development of open education resources in higher education institutions.

"Online education provides more and more opportunities to realise the international classroom in a very accessible way"

In a letter to parliament, Minister Bussemaker explained her vision of open and online higher education courses serving as the “business cards” of Dutch universities, expanding their reach to an increasingly connected student base.

“Institutions will draw the attention of tens to hundreds of thousands of students from all over the world with interactive and didactic courses,” she writes.

Essentially institutions will be given free reign to develop online strategies and cooperate with other providers

“This enriches our education system, promotes research and attracts talent to the Netherlands.”

The current state of Dutch higher education is “in good shape” she argues as universities work toward higher education targets for 2025 set out in the Quality in Diversity blueprint. She points out that some, including Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and University of Amsterdam, having already developed and delivered their own MOOCs.

She also applauds collaborations between private and publicly funded institutions in sharing open course material for the greater good of the students and welcomes the fact that Dutch institutions have joined the campaign to provide open educational materials worldwide.

“It integrates seamlessly with a philosophy developed through public funds that knowledge and research should be unlocked,” she writes.

However, in order to improve the quality of the higher education system and retain the country’s pole position as a top study destination she calls for more experimentation, self-evaluation and sharing among institutions.

In consultation with SURF, the collaborative ICT organisation for Dutch higher education and research, she will develop a plan to allocate the funds in the coming six months.

Essentially institutions will be given free reign to develop online strategies and cooperate with other providers.

“My view is that the current laws and regulations for  the accreditation and inspection process in the next few years is sufficient,” she writes. “Any new laws and regulations may unintentionally hamper dynamic development.”

She also stressed that MOOCs and online learning will not substitute conventional learning environments.

“My expectation regarding the open and online development is that it does not replace the current higher education environment, but will be an addition to the traditional setting,” she wrote.

She envisions a change in the physical environment of universities, shifting to meet the infrastructural needs of technology based learning, incorporating lessons from “the best teachers globally or even nationally” into curriculums and supplementing books with open digital learning resources or MOOCs.

“My expectation regarding the open and online development is that it does not replace the current higher education environment”

Freddy Weima, Director-General of Nuffic, the non-profit organisation supporting international cooperation in Dutch higher education, said the funding shows the importance of internationalisation of the sector.

He also supports allowing universities and the universities of applied science the freedom to experiment with online education.

“We believe the potential of online education lies beyond the massive courses,” he told The PIE News. “It provides more and more opportunities to realise the international classroom in a very accessible way.

“With the support of the Ministry and the active role of universities the Dutch higher education community keeps looking for innovative ways to attract and retain foreign talent,” he added.

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