Category Archives: eLearning

Developing MOOCs in Groningen

Between 31st August and 4th September 2015 I visited the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. I was fortunate to be able to do this as part of Erasmus+ training programme during which I worked at the University of Groningen looking in to how their MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are developed.

The MOOC project at the University of Groningen is handled by the Educational Support and Innovation Unit (part of the Centre for Innovation and Technology), which is similar to us here in Educational Development in the way that it is a support department and is not part of any faculty.

The Centre for Innovation and Technology has 164 full time members of staff, whilst the Educational Support and Innovation Unit has 19 full time staff, most of whom are teacher trainers and e-learning technicians. The priorities are teacher development, promoting and supporting e-learning and providing technical support.

In addition to developing MOOCs the Educational Support and Innovation Unit is involved in a number of other projects including:

  • Teacher certification
  • Assessment experts, student survey analysis
  • BlackBoard support
  • Technical support during student examinations
  • Video productions for flipped classroom projects
  • Curriculum redesigns

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‘An introduction to Dutch’ MOOC

The University of Groningen is well known in the MOOC world for producing an extremely successful MOOC ‘Introduction to Dutch’. This offers learners basic skills in Dutch. This free online course was also used by the University of Groningen as a tool to promote paid online courses offered by the Language Centre at the University. 75 people joined the paid version of the course after the first run of the MOOC had finished.

I met the educators who developed the course – Jeroen van Engen, Birgit Lijmbach, and Margried Hidding – to discuss what made it so successful. I was particularly interested in how the course was marketed and what the secret was to recruiting 35,000 people on this course.

I learnt that in addition to the traditional course advertising done by FutureLearn, a variety of other marketing channels were used such as:

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Developing your online identity as a researcher

Digital identity as a researcher is becoming increasingly important, at least if you want others to take note of the research that you have conducted. We all know now that you can’t simply publish in a journal, and expect lots of key people to automatically find out and take note. But how does one actually take charge of one’s own digital identity as a researcher?

Here in the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Liverpool, two of us who are engaged in research have recently undertaken an informal project to review our own digital identities, and to support our colleagues and others in taking their own initiative in this area. Tunde Varga-Atkins is a Learning Technologist, with researcher interests around both learner experiences with technology and visual research methods. Peter Kahn is Director of Studies for the University’s fully-online EdD in Higher Education. His research interests centre on applying critical realist perspectives to the study of higher education.

There is certainly plenty of good advice out there, as with the short course at Imperial College London, Collaborating and building your online presence, or the 23 Things self-directed online course from the University of Oxford on using digital tools in academia. But it’s one thing that such resources exist; it’s quite another to take the course or read the material, and then act on it. This is especially true when one is trying to establish a digital identity that reflects the various roles one has to undertake, taking in both development and research. Rather than concentrating so much on these resources, we reviewed each other’s digital identity and also looked at the digital identity of several other researchers. Our emphasis was on understanding the actions that we ourselves, and others, have actually taken.

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