Report of Open Education Event, 7 March 2012

Ben JanssenProudly Ben Janssen opened the Dutch Open Education Event that was held on the 7th March at Delft University of Technology and was streamed live to the world. The event was part of the first annual Open Education Week and organized by Delft University of Technology, SURF and Open Universiteit in the Netherlands. Janssen’s central message: “Open Educational Resources can open opportunities for people who do not qualify for ‘standard’ education, due to lack of funds or qualifications.”

The video feed and presentations can be found here:
Full recording of the entire event:

Move the world

Halbe ZijlstraSpeaker Halbe Zijlstra, Dutch Secretary of State for Education supported the view that more digital sharing of educational material is needed. “Because the young generation, the digital natives, are always online and very easily share (personal) information. Theirs is a fertile ground for innovation.” He added that digital disclosure can democratise education, by giving developing countries access to up to date material, enriched with visuals, interactive features and links to sources.

According to Zijlstra, questions to be answered mainly focus on what teaching methods to use for open education. “The role of the government is to ensure material is widely accessible but in the end, the field of education is on its own. The government will not prescribe content or guarantee quality. That is why we stimulate initiatives such as Wikiwijs, an online platform for students and teachers. It fits the government’s objectives of  creating a richer learning environment; increasing made-to-measure education; professionalizing teachers and strengthening their position and to enable lifelong learning.

There are definitely challenges and they lie within the traditional institutes, according to Zijlstra. “Things have been done a certain way for centuries and people will not move into the digital age all by themselves. Change brings uncertainty and people don’t like that. Their attitude is the biggest challenge.” But his final message was an enthusiastic one:

“Open Educations Resources are the future of our educational system. Let’s mainstream them and use this week to generate ideas that help move the world.”

Halbe Zijlstra’s speech:


The audience watched a short film about Wikiwijs, the online platform that brings resources and teachers together, for their own benefits and for their students.

Watch the video here:

The university’s new role

Anka MulderSpeaker Anka Mulder, president of the OpenCourseWare Consortium and Secretary General of Delft University of Technology focused on the meaning of open education for higher education. She said that universities have lost their information monopoly. “Our role now is to teach people to explain and understand information, to help analyse what they have gathered, to enable social interaction and to provide examination and feedback. Also, a university’s reputation and accreditation adds value to a diploma.”

The governments’ expectations with regard Open Educational Resources are to teach more students for a lower price, increase the quality of education, teach high school graduates as well as life long learners and be globally competitive. “It looks like a mission impossible, but is it?” She pointed out that when MIT started giving away materials in 2003, it was a huge step, but other universities soon followed. Only eight years later, there are over 21,000 courses online from universities on every continent.  

Mulder asked the audience - many of them over 45 - to think about their own time at university and the changes that have occurred since then. “I used a card system in the library. Phones were attached to walls. I received letters instead of emails and used a typewriter – and a lot of Tipp-ex. Now ask yourself, what will life of a student look like in 2020, only 8 years from now? And what will be different in 25 years?”

Anke Mulder’s presentation and video recording


Panel discussion

Panel membersFred Mulder: UNESCO Chair in OER at OU and Chair Steering Committee Wikiwijs
Arnold Jonk: Director Knowledge of Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture & Science
Greetje van den Bergh:, Chair Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO

Discussion leader: Anka Mulder
Watch the video at


During the introduction round, the panel members also got a chance to express their points of view. Fred Mulder from the Open University, “an institute with a tradition of open education”, said surprisingly that open education sometimes needs to be closed. “Students need structure and discipline to succeed.” He also stressed the need for a national strategy and said that since learning is produced with public funding, the resulting knowledge should be available to the public. But he admitted that “giving away content may affect an institute’s budget.”

Greetj van den Bergh and Fred MulderGreetje van den Bergh expressed her concerns about the lack of qualified teachers worldwide and wondered how to incorporate open educational resources in regular teacher training. “Regardless, open educational resources (OER) is a global movement.”

Arnold Jonk mentioned the online course on Artificial Intelligence recently published by Stanford University and found the quality of the content very high. “OER is bigger, better and cheaper. We keep talking about the money, but what educators get excited about is quality and access. What can we do to speed up the implementation process?”

Why should a university start with OER?

Open University started giving away material for free in small projects in 2006. Fred Mulder: “We were taking risks, but we saw the potential of the movement and wanted to be part of it early. In a scenario study, we found that more students enrol when we give them  access to a lot of free content.” He did admit the situation at TU Delft may be different, as it has a campus.

Paul RullmannPaul Rullmann, VP of Education TU Delft: “Delft did not start to send out a lot of material into the world because of its business model, because that is no good. You get no money. But you get friends, network, reputation, business partners, more enrolments. Our profit lies in the  production process of good quality material. When a teacher lectures to students on campus, we video the course and can immediately use it to teach students elsewhere. When teachers experienced with OER prepare their material on campus, their mind is on the world.”


What does the student of 2020 want?

All panel members agreed that a bricks and mortar university (i.e. a university with a campus) will have a definite role to play in the future, but perhaps more in the role of a meeting place. Mulder predicted an increased blending of online and on site worlds. Wilma van Weezenbeek, director TU Delft Library: “We encourage people now to come and study and meet up in the learning centre. Students will also require a physical location, but it may be located in different places.” A student in the audience was amazed at the future student sketched by the panel and by Anka Mulder earlier in her presentation. “I think we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Many students still want to sit in a room and listen to somebody talk. Do not forget about them.”

The general opinion was that the university as a building will remain standing in the future, but that its role will change that students increasingly take their information from online sources into the onsite world. Fred Mulder warned to be careful with being too enthusiastic about OER. “It is not education, it is only content. We still need good teachers and good teaching services.”

A former student from TU Delft suggested seeing OER “as an extra service. It was always possible to study alone, for example in the library, and to borrow someone’s else’s notes when you missed college. But people don’t want to study alone, they always wanted to go to the building to meet people.”

Learning methods

A studentMichel Wesseling, International Institute for Social Studies: “We have 67 different cultures in the house and most adopt very easily to e-learning, much more so than the teachers. They visit Berkeley or MIT online and challenge the teachers with the knowledge they find there. It was great to work with informed students. I believe in demand driven by learning, rather than supply driven by teaching.”

Strategy consultant Timo Kos asked what will happen if institutes don’t start with OER. “If you don’t start on time, will you be too late? If students can follow the best man of MIT online, why should they follow you?” And Piet van der Zanden, advisor IT in higher education added: “How will the university fit into this society where everyone is a student?”

“Accreditation,” answered Paul Rullmann “You have to make sure your reputation is better than those of the other institutes that give out diploma’s.”

A national policy on OER is a prerequisite to mainstream OER (or can universities and schools do it all alone?)

Arnold Jonk and Greetje van den BerghVan den Bergh was in favour of an international policy. “UNESCO has almost 200 member states and we need an international policy because so many people are not educated at all. As a wealthy part of the world, we should want to want an international policy. Learn from what is happening in China and India for example. If we are all educated, it will benefit us all.” Jonk agreed to look at other countries before setting up a national policy. “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it with policy.”

A publicly funded university has the moral obligation to share their knowledge. Open Education is a way to do this.

Willem van ValkenburgThis question brought copyright to the discussion table and general opinion was that governments should make conditions clear with regard to that issue. Hilde van Wijngaarden, Amsterdam library summarised the discussion as: “How can copyright be overcome as an obstacle to OER?” Willem van Valkenburg, director TU Delft OpenCourseWare, has found no issues with publishing Delft’s materials online and receives only positive feedback so long as sources are attributed properly. “We are not making money from the publications.”

OER is a hype

Mulder: “No.”
Van den Bergh: “It shouldn’t be.”
Jonk: “Yes, but anything that is good was once a hype.”

Final message by Neelie Kroes

The event closed with a video message from European Commission Neelie Kroes. She pleaded for Open Access, because “ICT works best when it is open and we share it.” But a lot work lies ahead of us. “IT can bring education to life” but “the classroom still looks like it did fifty years ago. We need teacher’s willing to embrace new technology and the future - and we need to be open.”

Watch the video message by European Commissioner Neelie Kroes:

The audience

TU Delft

EU Lifelong Learning Programme
with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union

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