This summer, the 500,000th participant registered for one of the MOOCs developed by WUR. A beautiful figure, but what does this milestone mean? Three questions for Ulrike Wild, programme director Online & Open Learning.
© Sven Menschel
A poster with short facts about WUR’s MOOCs has been appearing on bulletin boards around campus. The header reads: ‘Now 500.000 MOOC enrolments.’ By now, the counter has already passed 550,000, says Ulrike Wild. ‘I expect we will pass 600,000 before the end of the year.’
What does this milestone mean?
‘It means that more than 500,000 people have gone through the trouble of registering. Each of them saw “Wageningen University & Research” being mentioned and took note of who we are and what we do. It has a huge impact on the brand awareness of WUR.’
‘It does not mean that 500,000 people actually finished those MOOCs, of course. People often compare MOOCs to regular education – we should really stop doing that. This form of education is much freer; it is mostly free to access, it is open and there are not requirements to register. In short: nobody “has to”. People will drop out much more easily.’
How many of the participants do finish the MOOCs?
‘That differs for each MOOC. Between 10 and 15 percent follow the MOOC and are active, and between 1.5 and 3 percent finish the course. Participants consume the parts they are interested in. Not everyone is interested in taking the tests, for example, some people are only interested in watching the videos. And this is fine. It simply varies as to what people want to learn and why they are interested in a specific subject.’
Why does WUR create MOOCs?
‘First and foremost, the MOOCs show within which areas we are active as a university. It is a good way of creating visibility. Participants from around the world all come into contact with WUR. Look at the inflow of master’s students, for example: last year, 8 to 9 percent of the new master’s students had followed a WUR MOOC before registering at the university.’
‘Secondly, it contributes to the innovations on campus. All MOOCs we create are used in our regular programme in some way or other. They all contain usable knowledge clips, for example.’
‘Thirdly, it is a way to experiment with what I call “scalable pedagogy”. By developing MOOCs, we learn a lot about pedagogy in large-scale courses. How is it done, what works and what doesn’t.’
And the costs are assumed?
‘Yes; creating a MOOCs is very expensive, of course. But if you can use MOOCs to meet the market’s needs, you can earn back those costs through paywalls and certificates, for example. One of the MOOCs has already paid for itself. So apart from all the other reasons to create MOOCs, it could also be interesting from a financial point of view.’