Student - September 21, 2016

WUR is developing ‘MicroMaster’ biobased sciences

Teun Fiers

Wageningen University & Research will develop a MicroMaster on biobased sciences. This is a package of digital courses that will be offered through the digital education platform edX.

Image: a screenshot of the MicroMaster page in the in digital education platform edX

The first part of the MicroMaster is to be published online on 24 January 2017.

The MicroMaster bundles several Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in a theme. This way, the courses can be taught in greater depth and a package is of more value than separate courses. The people who have a need for this are mainly professionals who follow a study course beside their job. In addition, the completed MicroMaster is awarded with 24 ECTS if the student decides to follow the Biobased Sciences master’s programme in Wageningen.

Within digital education, there is a trend towards the deepening of subjects, states Suzanne de Bruijn, communications officer of Open and Online Education. A trend in which this new concept fits wonderfully. ‘When you take part in the digital education, you cannot stand still. You need to innovate if you want to keep up.’ Furthermore, MOOCs focus increasingly on professionals, who prefer to study in their own home, in their own time and at their own pace.

It is still unclear what the university will gain from the MicroMasters. ‘In the short term, the MicroMaster is an investment. Students pay for the certificate, so it could be recovered in the long run.’ Another indirect source of income is the brand awareness of Wageningen in the sector. ‘That should eventually provide commissions for research.’

Biobased sciences
Wageningen University & Research chose biobased sciences because an entire master’s programme is being developed on that subject. ‘As the content of the digital and on-campus courses is the same, the development does not take any additional time’, says De Bruijn. ‘It would also be easy to use part of the digital material for the on-campus programmes.’

Harry Bitter, lecturer and content coordinator, is happy with the MicroMaster on biobased sciences: ‘We have a unique position worldwide, because specialised knowledge is available in Wageningen on all aspects of the biobased economy.’

The initiative for the MicroMasters comes from the digital education platform edX, where the MOOCs of the WUR are hosted as well. In total, fourteen universities are developing one or two MicroMasters each. These are mostly American universities, such as MIT and University of Columbia. Three European universities are joining in the initiative. Besides Wageningen, these are the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain.