Hacked Belgian universitary education
Today, regarding some aspects, hackers spend more effort in learning than physical Belgian universities.
E.g. CCC, Europe's largest hackers organization yearly organizes the Chaos Communication Congress, an international meeting which is held over 4 days. Over 100 talks and activities were hosted physically in 2014.
Its education didn't stop there, in contrast with a regular university. The talks were broadcasted for free in real-time, often translated live to English or German, sometimes even subtitled in real-time, complete with an automatized calendar. IRC-channels were integrated, which allowed online P2P discussions and hyperlinking. Questions asked via these channels, were often answered by the speakers, directly integrated in the broadcast.
- Hacked education
- Recommendations and insights by Pierre Dillenbourg
- Discussion of some Belgian institutions
- Non scholae sed vitae discimus
- Bright examples and points of advise
- Where are universities going?
- More philosophy and appendices
Belgian universities, in general, keep teaching with archaic methods like chalking or unrecorded talking, which can't be consulted after the brief teaching interval.
Recommendations and insights by Pierre Dillenbourg
His position paper "No time to lose. Proposing a MOOC strategy for Flanders universities" (entitled "Proposal for a Digital Education Strategy for Flanders Universities" in the document) is an urgent wake-up call for north Belgium.
In it, he advises to follow 2 frameworks, which are presented in the following 2 sections:
An action track
It is indeed rather simple to launch a few MOOCs within a university:
- Define a two years budget, at the university level, for producing 4 MOOCs, e.g. 180K.
- Ask the rector to present the MOOC initiative to the faculty.
- There is probably already a video studio on each campus, but if there is no none, set up a low-cost studio (25K). MOOC video production can reach 90% of professional TV studios with 10% of their costs.
- If there is no video professional on campus, hire one (40K ⁄ year).
- Launch a "call for MOOCs" that allow any professor to submit a MOOC proposal. Create an editorial committee to review the proposals.
- Ask the rector to call herself/himself a few professors with worldwide reputation and to ask them to submit a MOOC proposal.
- Each selected MOOC proposal receives 10K to pay students preparing quizzes, assignments and assignment grading tools. Do not pay professors an extra salary for MOOC production but integrate this effort in their career plan.
- Start production 6 months ahead the launch data in order to anticipate production delays.
- Anticipate well in advance the way the courses on campus will restructured around the MOOC, the famous "flipped classroom". Design the study guides, activities, schedules and support mechanisms that will help students succeed.
- Run each MOOC twice.
- Ask a PhD Student to do assist (part time) in the development and analysis of the learning analytics (2×15K).
- Report the results to all stakeholders.
An approximate budget of 90K ⁄ year represents a significant amount of cash. From interviews with various stakeholders in Flemish universities, MOOCs seem to be unaffordable. I believe the opposite because some existing funding could be re-purposed: part of the funding currently invested in the learning management systems could be spared by choosing open source solutions and some of the salary costs could be covered by tapping into the teams that are already in charge of learning technologies. In addition, our experience at EPFL is that one may produce videos at 95% of the quality of professional videos for costs that are maybe around 10%. The Flemish government could provide a part of the funding that allows universities to go fast.
A strategy track
The strategy track should have a scope much broader than the MOOC initiative. Its mission should correspond to the digitalisation of universities described in introduction.
- Create in each university a new vice-rector whose mission is to re-think the digital campus, which includes MOOCs but also many other things.
- Create a Digital University Committee (DUC) made of the digital vice-rectors of the 5 Flemish universities plus representatives from companies. This committee could be supported by administrative staff of VLIR or KVAB
- The DUC negotiates an agreement with a MOOC provider in order to enable all universities (and eventually other educational institutions) to run open online courses. It has become difficult or expensive to join some platforms. I recommend resisting to the temptation to develop a new platform.
- The DUC elaborates the conditions under which a MOOC may lead to ECTS credits.
- The DUC negotiates with the Flanders Science Foundation for launching a research initiative on evidence-based education or it creates a learning science institute.
- The DUC tries to build short curricula on specific needs by combining MOOCs produced by several Flemish universities.
- I, Pierre Dillenbourg, recommend Flemish universities to allocate ECTS credits for MOOC completion.
- I, Pierre Dillenbourg, recommend Flemish universities to re-think their campus as a digital entity embodied in a physical campus.2
It is already thereFrom the data I obtained from Coursera and edX, I estimate that about 50,000 persons have taken a MOOC in Belgium in 2 years. Citizens and students pick on the web anything they consider as useful, including MOOCs, without asking any one the authorization to do so. Students evolved faster than universities.
Universities are losing controlOn the one hand, they loose control of who enters their digital teaching space. Participants join MOOCs, from teenagers to old ladies, without any control of prerequisites. Employees in companies take MOOCs without asking to their HR. On the other hand, what students learn is not restricted to what their university provides them. In lecture theaters, some students Google their teacher's claims in order to verify them, others search YouTube for better explanations,... Students are no more prisoner of the professor assigned to them but may follow the MOOC of his colleagues.
Universities are loosing their semi-monopolyCitizens and students take whatever is useful and credible. Many engineers already took expensive training courses such as "Cisco certified engineer". There is a growing diversity of actors who offer training such as sport associations, NGOs, religious bodies,... To remain on the map, universities have to rethink what makes them strictly necessary in the digital society.
There is no way backNowadays, most university students take for granted that the teaching material (slides, examples, demos, exercises,...) is available online. Some students spontaneously record lectures when a friend is absent. Video became an everyday substance: citizens record videos in any public happening; they produce videos for wedding or parties, they ski or cycle with a camera on their body,... I expect that in a few years, our students will complain if the videos of a course are not available somewhere. The current format of MOOCs may disappear, but the ubiquity of videos; in diverse forms; is only in its infancy. Video became an everyday substance.
MOOCs tickle the academic landscapeIn the US, the rise of MOOCs cannot be dissociated from the financial crisis of universities and from the huge debt that students accumulate during their studies. In Europe, MOOCs tickle the relationship between universities. On the one hand, they increase competition between universities by letting universities "fish" on remote territories. On the other hand, they facilitate collaboration between universities that can more easily than before build joint curricula. Sooner or later, the political decision makers will question the need to teach the same course in Leuven, Hasselt and Antwerp. Universities have to prepare substantial answers to this question.
MOOCs may kill small universitiesMOOCs reactivate the debate between large and small universities, between research universities and teaching universities,... This question is not bound to MOOCs but some scholars argue that small universities might disappear since successful MOOCs originate mostly from top universities. At the opposite, small universities might benefit from MOOCs by giving to a professor a worldwide visibility that he could not get from the sole reputation of his or her university. I don't know which of these two predictions is correct and how the European academic landscape will evolve in the next decade, but I am convinced that MOOCs will be one of the main factors of this evolution.
Risk is an academic dutyThe previous point acknowledges that MOOCs create some risks for academia. Risks concern the financial impact of MOOC but also data privacy and intellectual property,... It is legitimate to estimate these risks before deciding to engage or not into MOOCs. However, the future is not foreseeable: the MOOCs of tomorrow will be whatever universities collectively invent. If universities are not willing to take some risks, who else? University professors have a culture of risk taking in their research; writing ambitious research proposals with goals they are not sure to reach; which does unfortunately not expand to their teaching. It is time to upgrade education to the same level of entrepreneurship.
The corporate world is going for MOOCsCorporate actors are very aware of the disruptive power of MOOCs, in terms of competition between actors but also internally. MOOCs tickle the traditional organization of corporate training For instance, if the employees following a MOOC on management are asked to provide examples of corporate silos, their homework provide the company management with highly valuable feedback on what is happening in the company. If a worker is invited to record a video of his excellent practice, this MOOC is not only a training resource but also a valorization tool for this worker. If a MOOC is designed for the company customers, should it be produced by the training department or by the customer services unit? MOOCs bypass the usual perimeter of corporate training and yet many companies are exploring their potential.
University pedagogy is not very effective for individualsLecturing is an effective method from the teacher viewpoint, since the teacher may deliver a lot of content in a limited time. It is less effective from a learner's viewpoint: learning is the side effect of processing information and listening requires a shallow processing of information. Eventually, students do learn because they engage into deeper processing outside lectures: they write summaries, they explain to each other, they do exercises,... Moreover, the exercises sessions; which are central to engineer training; are also not very effective. Very often, students come unprepared and expect the teaching assistant to carry most of the work. In both cases, tradition is not always synonymous of effectiveness. Some universities radically engaged into reforms such as problem-based learning. MOOCs allow us to explore various forms of pedagogy around the notion of "flipped class": the registered students watch the lectures at home or anywhere and come on campus for richer activities with the teachers.
The academic system is not as useful for the society as it could beThe way students enter and leave universities is not optimal. In some disciplines, too many students enter university for getting degrees that will not provide them with a job. In other domains, such as engineering and sciences, universities do not deliver the number of degrees that the economy needs. Many students fail the first academic year. This failure rate represents a huge waste of money for an educational system. After their studies, many students get jobs for which they have not been trained because curricula evolve more slowly than the market. I am not claiming that MOOCs will solve all these problems, but pointing out the space for improvement.
Teaching is not valuable for an academic careerIt is a common place to notice that research performance is the key factor for academic promotion. For many professors, teaching is more a duty than a priority. The professor is usually alone in a lecture theater; teaching being almost a private activity. MOOCs make teaching public. This generates a stress for professors when they record their MOOC: any mistake will be publicly visible. However, this visibility is progressively improving the academic status of teaching. It becomes a higher stake activity.
Do tax payers understand academia?Europe has the unique chance of publicly funded universities. However, this public funding is constantly threatened by the weaknesses of the national economies. How many taxpayers perceive campuses as nice environments for privilege people rather than as an economical priority? Universities should make their contribution to society more visible. I am not talking here about the creation of start-ups or about collaborations with Flemish companies, even through these could be critical aspects of the MOOC strategy, but about training citizens to societal issues and providing lifelong learning to all Flemish citizens.
Scale is an opportunityThe scale; the number of students; is perceived as a great opportunity in terms of opening access to education, but as a pedagogical filter. Some learning activities scale well: how much John learns from watching a video or from answering quizzes will be the same whether there are 10 or 10,000 other students watching the same video. At the opposite, some learning activities, manageable with small classes, do not scale up easily, for instance group discussions or open problem solving. At the same time, scale enables new approaches inspired by crowdsourcing. For instance, the peer grading mechanisms implemented in MOOCs provide some anonymity at large scale. The pedagogical future of MOOCs is to invent new pedagogical methods that benefit from the new scale of education.
Bologna is an assetSo far, MOOC certificates are not considered as course credits in most European universities. As mentioned in the recommendations, one reason is the rate of plagiarism in students' production. However, techniques for online-proctored exams are rapidly improving. Sooner or later, they will be as reliable or even more reliable than on-campus exam. When this will be the case, Europe will have a unique opportunity to build the largest educational ecosystem, since it has already the currency for sharing courses, the ECTS credits, as well as the basis for collaboration, the Bologna treaty.
MOOCs can boost educational researchMOOCs expand the methodology of educational research. The empirical methods used for many years on education research can now be applied at large scale by MOOC platforms (A/B testing). The massive learning traces can feed machine learning algorithms. Learning analytics brings education to the era large-scale inductive science that is already shaping many other sciences. The movement of "open analytics", i.e. sharing empirical data across labs worldwide, mimic phenomena that boosted other sciences one decade ago. In the future, educational research should not be only conducted by educational scientists, but by any scholar involved in education.
VisibilityI deliberately left this point as the last one, because it has been overemphasized. But, like it or not, Universities compete for the best teachers and the best students. Universities and individual professors are concerned by various indices of visibility such as their number of citations, rankings, h-factor,... MOOC participate to this measure of worldwide visibility and I expect them to be soon integrated in international university rankings. If this way the only reason to do MOOCs, that would not justify the effort. But, this visibility is a positive side effect of MOOC efforts.
Some stories from the same section:
Revolutionary financial models
DuoLinguo is a free language learning platform that attracted 38 millions participants in two years. It proposes simple language learning activities. What is striking is their financial model, which breaks away from any academic idea. The company uses crowdsourcing to translate into many languages the texts produced by other companies, such as CNN: the learners receive sentences to translate; beginners translate short sentences and advanced students translate complex sentences. The quality of their translation can be checked since several thousands of them may be translating the same sentence. Using crowdsourcing to finance education maybe shocking from a Humboldt perspective, but DuoLinguo illustrates how far digital education may be different from our university tradition.
A Scandinavian university invited its students who registered to the local course in SCALA, a programming language, to register instead to a MOOC given by an EPFL professor Martin Odersky , who invented SCALA. Another university is currently negotiating with EPFL to buy two MOOCs and translate them in their national language for their own students. This is happening today. Academia may not like these movements but I am. I don't see any way to stop them.
Better prepared students
My university, EPFL, has launched two successful introductory programming MOOCs, respectively in JAVA and C++. Teachers reported that, in the past, students would often ask questions on topic that they had just presented in their lecture. Their observations; not yet confirmed by robust empirical evidence; is that students who watch the MOOC at home come better prepared to the exercises sessions. Given the importance of the exercise sessions on the skills of our graduates, if the only benefit of MOOCs was to make exercises sessions more productive, this single effect would still justify the energy we engaged into our MOOC initiative.
A sea of opportunities
How do you teach a course on Venice? Typically, a history teacher would show traces, pictures, movies and maybe bring students to Venice. EPFL is working on digital environment called the Venice Time Machine: Venice was a bureaucratic city that recorded in huge manuscripts all construction works, the contents and passengers of all boats entering or leaving the city, etc. The project aims to scan the kilometers of archives using tomography (manuscripts cannot be manipulated by automatic scanners) and thereby to offer to students a unique environment to navigate through the history of the dodges city.
Discussion of some Belgian institutions
Laud Louvain-la-NeuveThe Walloon University of Louvain-la-Neuve is providing the most extensive Belgian online education, by far. They are an edX charter member. Its courses hosted on edX are exquisite. Its platform coordinator is Vincent Blondel . A complete list of its MOOCs can be found on the MOOC section of its French website, where inspired teachers can find a team of support. It deserves appraisal, since there is a huge gap in European subsidies between the Belgian regions Wallonia and Flanders. One specific Flemish university: University of Leuven, even received more financial European support for R&D in the last 7 years than all of the Walloon research institutions and companies together.3
Update of 18/2/2016I know I am committing a mere quantitative analysis here, but for a same day comparison with the meager amount of 3 MOOCs for the University of Leuven (cf. below under Leuven wakes up), I just wished to document that the University of Louvain-la-Neuve hosted 14 MOOcs on edX, as of 18 February 2016. Luckily, one could enroll for each one of them (which amounts to a ratio of 14 to 1, when comparing to the amount of MOOcs offered by the University of Leuven for which could be enrolled). Of these 14 still accessible courses, 7 had started (or were about to start) newly maintained sessions in February 2016. 6 of the remaining 7 courses will be newly maintained in the future in that they contained the message "Future Dates To Be Announced", and the remaining course was self-paced.
Hogeschool PXLFollow Hogeschool PXL's example, as it opens a Dutch MOOC about digital media, starting 1/2015. For this, they cooperated with Mediawijs, a Flemish center of media driven by iMinds ("Flanders' digital research center and business incubator, established by the Flemish government").
Initiative-taker, vice minister-president of the Flemish government and Flemish minister of innovation and media, public investment and poverty reduction (2009-2014), Ingrid Lieten, evaluates MOOCs positive
I am very much convinced of the importance of a media literate society, that makes an effort for digital competences of its people. In a media literate society, a MOOC is an ideal way to inform young people, as well as elderly. The big advantage of such a MOOC is that it's accessible for everyone. After all, our goal is to reach people via as much complementary channels as possible; and teach them to handle these fast evolving media consciously. Our digital society evolves and has a lot for us in its sleeve. Only by playing along with this, in a media literate way, we can benefit from the fruits of its labor, and will we not be passed by that digital evolution.4
Leuven wakes upThe University of Leuven participated in creating a course on Literature and Change in Europe. It got additional support through OpenCourseware Europe5. Its few remaining open courses can be found on its OCW-portal. Many of its videos are of too low quality to be fully legible. In general, Frederik Truyen is a coordinator. Altogether, still a poor achievement considered its overwhelming funds. However, it encourages teachers who believe in open education.
Update of 18/2/2016On 18 February 2016, I observed that the University of Leuven now hosts 3 MOOCs on edX. The courses can be found via edX's page KULeuvenX. The first one of these 3 seems to have been advertised by the university in a press release which was created on (but perhaps not published on) 27 March 2015 (and was last modified on 28 April 2015). An English press release seems to have been created only on 3 November 2015, and a similar notification on the MOOC was given by the website Flanders Today on 2 November 2015. The remaining 2 courses (The EU and Human Rights & The Great War and Modern Philosophy) were also announced or already available on edX (together with the 1st MOOC), at least before 6 September 2015. Unfortunately, however, enrollments were completely closed for 2 out of the 3 MOOCs, leaving only The EU and Human Rights available to be accessed. This is a pity, as edX provides the possibility for courses to be accessible even after the universities' community support has stopped. And even that single MOOC was not actively maintained in that it had no announced future dates (but merely contained the message "Future Dates To Be Announced").
Ghent dips a toeA first tiny step by Ghent University is mentioned in a press abstract. The Dutch version of the article also mentions a cooperation with iMinds and seems to indicate there is talk of a single MOOC. Frank Gielen is its contact.
Hope in Antwerp?If you happen to be in Antwerp: if you want to teach, or have anything to do with the educational structure, please find your way to the recording rooms at University of Antwerp, which unfortunately are almost never used. The ones I know of, are listed below.6 Emeritus professor of philosophy Joachim Leilich 7 informed me about some activities of Centrum WeST.
My gratitude goes to Centrum WeST, the Centre for Work and Studies at the University of Antwerp, which has quickly replied to my inquiry about its facilitation of lecture recordings. Their efforts are, in my view, an urgent and excellent step towards the technical support in pedagogy. After contact which can be initiated by a teacher; they arrange the recording of the lectures of complete courses; which can be accessed by either all of the course's students, or by a specific group of students only (e.g. students who are in a "lifelong learning" programme); according to the choice made by the teacher. They have informed me that their recordings are programmed by an organizational structure of the university, called "Nieuwe Mediadienst". The information of the latter can, unfortunately, only be consulted in Dutch, either here (hasn't been updated since 12/9/2006) or here. In an information-leaflet of the university on "flipped classroom" (again: Dutch only, unfortunately), Roel De Ryck is mentioned as their contact person. In the same leaflet, it can be read that they use the mediasite-platform; which certainly doesn't seem to be open-source in any way. As much as I obviously value these pedagogical efforts; I would like to state to regret that these recorded courses are not available free & open. If they were, they would certainly provide poor people with good education, and the increased use of the material would even benefit the internal quality of the education; in my humble anecdotal prognosis. Considering the unfortunate marketing of physical universities today, such goals of openness and freedom, do not seem to be able to be interesting enough for the short-sighted neoliberal Belgian institutional education.
Remaining Belgian universitiesAll remaining Belgian universities are; to my knowledge; playing possum.
Non scholae sed vitae discimus
Non scholae sed vitae discimus8The outstanding effort of University of Louvain-la-Neuve shows poor subsidies aren't the prohibiting factor. The blame is on the universities, not educating their professors on technical pedagogical advancements, nor providing frameworks for digital education; but also on professors and undergraduates; not thinking out loud and out-of-the-box. The flood forgets it consists of many droplets. Professors are excellent at researching and publishing today, working like a horse with blinkers, but most have absolutely no clue or interests in teaching (techniques). Further more, they don't nearly put as much time and effort (it's even impossible, without communion; and a waste of energy without technical sharing platforms) in questions or deeper interests of students as P2P communities do; provided by specialists on MOOC-organisations or free platforms such as Stackexchange, Quora or OpenStudy. Cooperation is mandatory, where division of labour isn't adequate. To give you an example, the course CS50 each year has about 100 staff members in roles of course assistants and teaching fellows; and then we're not speaking about the technical pedagogical apparatus and coupled human resources. It has long become impossible to be a uomo universale, at least with true expertise. At the same time, digitalization provides collaboration and facilitates personal teaching or learning paths, enabling polymathic interdisciplinary interests. Undergraduates, perhaps too often guided by status and luxury, might forget about their curiosity and the importance of learning. They should start questioning the current sacrifices they offer to get a shortsighted reputation. Today in Belgium, at entry level, the better option might be to study outside the university; for philosophical9 reasons. Why pay to sit on a chair and listen to a badly taught course, more erratic than interactive or open source materials, just to get to know examination methods and random accents of a single professor without time for teaching? Physical university students have forgotten cooperation: e.g. in 2014, I asked my complete year of math to study socially, without any result. As have I had professors not answering to any mail. My advice would be to work together and be creative: you can produce free intellectual value by active studying, e.g. by translating an important source.
General societyNo matter how meaningless the entertainment broadcast: it can be watched again, subtitled or translated, from anywhere in the world, paused or edited; and contains the best special effects. Even conservative religions, have successfully integrated new technology into their preachings and dialogs. We can even access them while doing physical exercise. Education is at its best when not shredded by protectionism. Politics should think more across borders. We want improvements for humanity. If we don't educate, we can't choose better options. Question your activities, remember your ideals and put them into practice. Raise your voice for improved education. Stop the bureaucracy, unite your wills: it's time for outrage. The bright side of the story is that we are so rich now; we don't even need the university, the ministry of education, nor the professors (those without teaching interests). One can live a healthy life here, earning minimum wage roughly 1 or 2 days a week. The rest of the week, one can study; following sincere interests, being able to zoom in, having the best support and sources ever. Please start enjoying it: free digital, always accessible and open to all. Belgium, who owes its wealth to stolen African resources and enslaved work, could educate itself again by educating the world. Consider Nelson Mandela, who reminds us a digital voice can reach remote areas or disaster zones ("this project" in the following sentence actually refers to a South African digital education project called Mindset Network):
- What is particularly exciting about this project is that it is potentially a solution to education challenges in other countries. We are developing something that has application around the world.
- We need to ensure that every one of our children has access to a world class, quality education.
- Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.10
Bright examples and points of advise
TrailblazersAs for teachers, a bright example is Jörn Loviscach , professor of engineering mathematics and technical informatics, former professor of computer graphics, animation and simulation; which published more than 2000 educational videos freely available. According to a German newspaper, he was the first professor in Germany to put lectures online, in 2009.11 A good source for MOOC platforms, internationally can be found in a MOOC paper; most of them are listed below. An extensive list can be found here. If you are interested in coding, start here; or use Codeacademy, which is exquisitely interactive. When the language isn't specified, most courses are English:
- Canvas Network.
- Edraak Arabic.
- FUN French.
- iversity German.
- Khan Academy.
- Miríada X Spanish.
- MIT OpenCourseWare.
- Leuphana Digital School.
- Netease Chinese.
- Open Learn.
- Open Learning Initiative.
- Schoo Japanese.
- Stanford Online.
- UNED Abierta Spanish.
- UniMOOC Spanish.
- UNINETTUNO OpenupED Italian.
- Rwaq Arabic.
- Veduca Portuguese.
- UCI OpenCourseWare.
- World Science U.
- Yale Online.
- xuetangX Chinese.
How to go digitalIf you want to create (portions of) videos like those from Khan Academy, you can find an explanation here. If the materials you want your class to learn are on Khan Academy, you can use their guide for coaches. Other features of the platform include subtitles translated into multiple languages, also displayable via an interactive transcript; over 100,000 digital exercises, a motivational reward system, and a vast amount of P2P Q&A's. An alternative way to "produce animated whiteboard lectures from a tablet PC or electronic whiteboard" is called LectureScribe]. If you are interested in using digital styli on an iPad: a small comparison on Sue Glascoe ’s blog post. If not: use any smart-phone, computer, camera, audio-recorder, create an interactive website (e.g. with a highly extensible CMS; used by tech experts, major governments, the most famous newspapers; such as WordPress, Drupal, which was started by a Belgian, Joomla, or many other alternatives) or find a platform for P2P study questions. Some LMS's to move your course online are e.g. OpenLearning, CourseSites, Sakai, Moodle, D2L, Eliademy, Canvas, OpenMooc, wemooc or Course Builder, if you are a Google fan. Most of them are free and open source. Some teachers in this online master used Piazza. A Dutch tool for field trips is ARLearn. Of course, famous MOOC platforms can be contacted as well. Mentionable is Inge de Waard , a Belgian MOOC researcher, who wrote a $3 e-book called "MOOC yourself. Set up your own MOOC for business, profits, and informal communities". Updates on conferences like the eMOOCs 2015, which will be hosted in Mons, Belgium (18-20/5/2015); can also be found on her blog. Please have the courage to keep it free. As mentioned in a Eurydice report, in Europe: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have completely free university education; bachelor and master, by default with a €0 tuition fee. Students in Cyprus, Greece and Scotland most commonly have free bachelor education (data from 2009-2010). In some countries students even receive additional grants.12 Indefinite consultation can improve learning, amongst other advantages. Wikipedia's article on spaced repetition mentions several digital implementations. Some of them even adapt to an individual's learning curve, which is generated automatically.
Caring sharingPlease be inspired: the videos of the Khan Academy, as those of many other platforms, are posted under a CC license which is far more open than most protectionistic Belgian university courses. Why not contribute to the open and free Wikipedia, or create a new MediaWiki?
I have had a professor (Sara Bals ) who wouldn't even hand me a digital copy of the syllabus, so I had to scan and digitize it myself. Why so little altruism? The department of philosophy at the University of Antwerp even told me I could only get the digital sources, if I had a mental handicap. I am glad for the handicapped, and I am sure I could get diagnosed with multiple diseases from the DSM if I wanted to; but I am fundamentally against it, since this would cover up the fact that this department (as I guess, are many others) is itself handicapping everyone without a psychological diagnose. Albert Einstein's statement on the educational system is applicable to the destroying of a students curiosity by creating a setting without generosity:
Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before. This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.13Lastly, if you can't find time to focus on pedagogy; don't forget integrating external content can be an enriching experience for all parties. Please, spare everyone the trouble if you are not interested to put effort in teaching. If you are too busy researching: thank you, I regard your activity as highly valuable and praiseworthy. However: as long as adequate cooperative platforms aren't in place, teachers should have other interests, so use their material or stop acting like one. We always stand on the shoulders of giants.
Moral guidance shouldn't be forgottenAs for moral support: I followed a complete semester of mathematics without a single moral reflection to be heard. Is this desirable, when young people come into a highly competitive environment, where calls for help often stay unanswered? Please allow me to remind you: as part of education, you can be a role model. As an exquisite professor of philosophy Luc Braeckmans advised me, discussing these matters: direct contact can be much more efficient in some cases, as opposed to mail traffic. This real-time support can also largely be obtained through digital channels, such as videotelephony. The most important thing, I think, is to make students crystal clear they are very welcome for any support. Since there should be no place in society without moral support and kind advice. One can refer to specialized channels if necessary. I even suggest this might be controlled far better online then offline; even if secondary, the support might be continued offline. Having someone writing with chalk and standing in front of a classroom doesn't automatically mean someone will provide formative education. Today, Belgium and the rest of Europe faces a problem with waiting lists of youth psychiatrist to be as long as a year. For less urgent problems, one can use can an interactive planning software such as Doodle or Youcanbook.me. I just came across Jeroen Ruwaard 's 2013 PhD thesis "The efficacy and effectiveness of online CBT", which evaluates online cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) positive:
The results suggest that online CBT provided a feasible alternative to existing treatment options for people who suffer from a variety of mental health disorders.14I certainly don't want to prove an hypothesis with high certainty by citing this single dissertation, that would obviously be a cherry-pick; for now however, I will leave the study here for future reference. I have no expertise in this area of study and thus trying to guess under what circumstances & for what conditions in particular such online CBT's might be useful, I would certainly be hypothetical and would most likely make a fool out of myself. However, just as a pedagogical construct, I would love to add a thought construction by Seymour Papert , which he uses to construct an analogy between the introduction of the computer and a hypothetical introduction of the pencil:
Much current research is marred by another flaw as well. Imagine (if you can) that we lived in a world without writing - and, of course, without pencils, pens and books. Then one day, somebody invents writing and the pencil, and people say, "Wow, this would be great for education. Let’s give these things to all the children and teach them to write." So then somebody else says, "Hey, wait a minute. You can’t just do that. You can’t just give every child a pencil. You’d better start by doing some rigorous experiments on a small scale. So, we’II ‘put one pencil in a classroom and we’ll see what happens. If great things happen, we’ll put two pencils in a classroom, and if greater things happen, then we’ll put in more"15Thinking of this passage always strikes me with the fundamental reflection that the underlying culture in which you perform a certain experiment is highly determining for many experiments in the social sciences. One can read this passage, and imagine that nobody in this class was anyhow cultivated to use a pencil successfully: such a pencil experiment might have failed at this point in culture, depending on the conditions and attention given too other determining factors. I suppose this liquidity and importance of underlying culture, is also what Seymour Papert tries to bring to attention here and further in the 1984 speech "New Theories for New Learnings", where the passage was taken from. Seymour Papert uses this analogy to note that it is difficult to assess a new piece of technology from such an experiment, since its potential uses through time are under-developed and unclear yet:
For example, experiments on one pencil per class would have no bearing on the effect of pencils in our culture. Nor do experiments on the effect of a small degree of artificial access to computers have any bearing on the effect computers could have when they are culturally integrated.15Seymour Papert brings this to attention regarding research in social science. Learners, which we all are; and teachers of science, in particular; should be inspired by the altruism and peace-aspirations of religions, for science is a catastrophe without moral input, and religion is blind without science. The same counts for the arts, which lead nowhere without being informated; and for the distribution of knowledge, which has no leverage without well-thought-out applications. It's philosophy's task to find, in a critical manner, contents of religions; in dialogue with scientific developments; to fill the shortages in the highly-valuable apparatus of science. Especially for practical creativity, active learning, P2P social or moral support, without the overtly competitive atmosphere: find a warm welcome in a hackerspace, in Belgium or elsewhere. Another idea; today still less intellectually stable, but with a great sense of networked learning by building content together; is P2PU.
- iMinds has the potential to spin-off their expertise for this high purpose, as shown above.
- Media & Learning.
Where are universities going?
University, disease or decease?Karl Aberer , vice president of EPFL, in a german interview titled "The mission of universities is going to change"; refers to a current MIT-study, which predicts %30 of the universities in the US will be vanished in the next 10 years. Aberer kindly provided me a reference, although I have yet to find the prediction in it. He mentioned the prognosis was either in this document, or in complementary discussions with MIT. I have found similar predictions elsewhere, or here.
Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't survive. It's as large a change as when we first got the printed book. Do you realize that the cost of higher education has risen as fast as the cost of health care? And for the middle-class family, college education for their children is as much of a necessity as is medical care; without it the kids have no future. Such totally uncontrollable expenditures, without any visible improvement in either the content or the quality of education, means that the system is rapidly becoming untenable. Higher education is in deep crisis. It took more than 200 years (1440 to the late 1600s) for the printed book to create the modern school. It won't take nearly that long for the big change. Already we are beginning to deliver more lectures and classes off campus via satellite or two-way video at a fraction of the cost. The college won't survive as a residential institution. Today's buildings are hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded.
Badges and creditsConsiderable is "My view. The future of credentials", by Salman Khan , creator of Khan Academy. Although it is likely that institutions which teach MOOCs also offer credits for completing them, below are some examples regarding already internationally recognized credits:
The European Commission and national authorities should encourage and incentivise higher education providers to award and recognise credits under the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System for all forms of online courses. The current revision of the ECTS Guide should incorporate these principles.16A statement by Fred Mulder , holder of chairs in "EADTU task force on open education" and "UNESCO Open Educational Resources":
We have much to offer in Europe by fully exploring the possibilities created by the MOOCs revolution, but with a broader perspective on opening up education. Our aim is to respond to the need for a more accessible system of higher education, which puts the learner at the centre. The European MOOCs will provide quality, self-study materials and a bridge between informal learning and formal education. Some of the courses attract formal credits which will count towards a degree, for example.iversity:
- 2013: Grundlagen des Marketing.
- 2014-now: Algorithmen und Datenstrukturen.
- 2014-now: Einführung in das Rechnungswesen.
- 2014-now: Einführung in die Betriebswirtschaftslehre.
- 2015-now: Architecture 101. Part I.
- 2015-now: Architecture 101. Part II.
- 2015-now: Architecture 101. Part III.
To my knowledge, University of the People deserves special appraisal, since they are an on-line university without any tuition fee.
- DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST).
More philosophy and appendices
Stefaan Van Brabandt & Bram Van SplunterenAn episode on education in the Belgian philosophical series "The advantage of the doubt", a documentary by philosopher Stefaan Van Brabandt, and documentary maker Bram Van Splunteren. Most of it was spoken in Dutch, as are the original subtitles. This was first aired on the Belgian television channel Canvas. Its documentary website can be found on a Dutch Canvas' webpage.
Stefaan Van Brabandt & Bram Van Splunteren, Het voordeel van de twijfel (The advantage of the doubt), episode 6, Canvas, first aired on 13/1/2015
- [open video at "5min" in current window] | Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Émile; ou de l'Éducation" / "Émile; or on education" questions societal authority in general.
- [open video at "6:59" in current window] | Philosopher Michel Serres gets introduced and makes a quite striking analogy. What position do you think our lecture room students are in?
- [open video at "12m44s in current window] | Education and work researcher John Moravec is introduced and makes an analogy between factory workers and today's formalistic education, arguing this is problematic.
- [open video at "18m8s" in current window] | Socrates' maieutics and Immanuel Kant's adagio "sapere aude". A philosopher who teaches children in kindergarten to differentiate between an argument and a person, to make children feel safer daring to think. Martha Nussbaum ↷ pleas for broader education in which philosophy is embedded.
- [open video at "28m13s" in current window] | Education expert Yong Zhao (Personal site | University of Oregon) talks about the illusion of expertise in today's educational system, wherein rigid (e.g. Chinese) education can be exemplary of a faulty method which doesn't explore a learner's talents and entrepreneurial creativity.
- [open video at "33m59s" in current window] | Philosopher Martha Nussbaum ⤴ introduces John Dewey, one of the most renowned philosophers of education.
Flemish chauvinismPlease forgive members of the N-VA party for its mistakes. It's not easy to restrict yourself to populism, certainly not when you welcome politicians from the extremist party Vlaams Belang like Jurgen Ceder or Karim Van Overmeire, although "perfectly integrated immigrants" into its Flemish ideology. Ico Maly wrote his doctoral dissertation "N-VA. Analysis of a political ideology" on it, warning of political danger. My respect goes to Ico Maly, who was so kind to inform me that his full (Dutch) PhD thesis is freely available on-line both @ Academia & @ ResearchGate and that; most fortunately some of his work, which I consider to be important analyses; can be found summarized in English as well, in "'Scientific' Nationalism. N-VA, banal nationalism and the battle for the Flemish nation", consultable to all. I myself find it quite sad to see them not noticing its exclusion ideology is feeding extremists and excluding dialogue and peace-seeking.
Illusion of Babel
Paradise Lost As late as the seventeenth century the savants and artists of all Europe were so closely united by the bond of a common ideal that co-operation between them was scarcely affected by political events. This unity was further strengthened by the general use of the Latin language. Today we look back at this state of affairs as at a lost paradise. The passions of nationalism have destroyed this community of the intellect, and the Latin language, which once united the whole world, is dead. The men of learning have become the chief mouthpieces of national tradition and lost their sense of an intellectual commonwealth.17To make a political statement: please use English or French in public. Any other language than the un-important Flemish dialect will do. An ironic remark: Joke Hadermann who, by some calamity, joined the same party, stressing the importance of Flemish in education on its party member website, is already using English textbooks (noted in 2014, even though this was presumably not the first year that English-taught physics books were used in her classes).
Nationalism and fascistic patriotism
Another statement to make is to extrude all nationalism: move it online!
- At the time when national and political infatuation had reached its height, Emil Fischer spoke the following emphatic words: "It's no use. Gentlemen, science is and remains international." The really great scientists have always known this and felt it passionately, even though in times of political confusion they may have remained isolated among their colleagues of inferior calibre.17
- The most valuable contribution to a reconciliation of the nations and a permanent fraternity of mankind is in my opinion contained in their scientific and artistic creations, because they raise the human mind above personal and national aims of a selfish character. Concentration of energy upon those problems and aims common to all people of intellect, produces quite naturally a feeling of comradeship, which is bound always to re-unite the true scholars and artists of all countries, though it is inevitable that the less great-hearted and less independent among them will always be temporarily estranged by political and other passions. The intellectuals should never weary of emphasizing the internationality of mankind's most beautiful treasures and their corporations should never stoop to foster political passions by public declarations or other demonstrations.18
I have to remark that, although I equally perceive nationalism as a sad phenomena, their sentiments have sometimes also been positively used beyond national politics, in a quest to counter war and fascism. An example of this can be Norway during the Second World War, where the following happened:
- What I have to say is nothing new and does not pretend to be anything more than the opinion of an independent and honest man who, unburdened by class or national prejudices, desires nothing but the good of humanity and the most harmonious possible scheme of human existence.
- With the extensive specialization of scientific research which the nineteenth century brought about, it has become rare for a man occupying a leading position in one of the sciences to manage at the same time to do valuable service to the community in the sphere of international organization and international politics. Such service demands not only energy, insight, and a reputation based on solid achievements, but also a freedom from national prejudice and a devotion to the common ends of all, which have become rare in our times.
- These tokens of an international way of thinking and feeling are particularly welcome; for the world is today more than ever in need of international thinking and feeling by its leading nations and personalities, if it is to progress towards a better and more worthy future.
- We see now that the greatest efforts are needed if this legacy of humanity's is to prove a blessing and not a curse. For whereas formerly it was enough for a man to have freed himself to some extent from personal egotism to make him a valuable member of society, today he must also be required to overcome national and class egotism. Only if he reaches those heights can he contribute towards improving the lot of humanity.
- That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that does by the name of patriotism; how I hate them!
- And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the press.17
The flag—along with the King's monogram and some other patriotic emblems—became the most important symbol of resistance. When the Germans forbade 17th of May celebrations, this further enhanced the value of the flag as a mobilizing symbol.19In another part of the world, on Solomon Islands, where I have learned about the "ethnic tension" and how different schisms relating to small intra-national entities such as provinces have accumulated in civil war; I have, in that context, less problems with the story of nationalistic symbolism in a quest to search for peace between even smaller entities. The story, however, remains an ultra-simplistic one; and I always remind myself of the danger (as to exclusion from inter-national influences) it might bring now, or in a more-developed future of the country, exactly because of this narrow-minded simplicity.
Maastricht is the only university providing mainly instruction in English at bachelor level. English is the main (or at least very prominent) language at master level in Twente (90%), Eindhoven (83%), Amsterdam (VU 60-70%, UVA 66%), Groningen (55%), Leiden (‘English is dominant’), Utrecht, Tilburg, Rotterdam, Nijmegen (the latter 4 more or less 50%). English is the only language in Maastricht, Delft and Wageningen. All Flemish universities - Antwerp, Brussels (2 universities), Ghent, Hasselt, and Leuven - provide about the same amount of English (less than 20%). This is significantly less than Dutch universities but significantly more than French-speaking universities in Belgium, where most courses are taught in French only.21Its abstract concludes:
Due to the internationalization of European higher education, English has been gaining importance as a medium of instruction. This tendency may also be observed in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Yet, the Flemish government severely restricts the use of languages other than Dutch for teaching purposes. This monolingual policy contrasts sharply with the multilingual reality in Flanders.Another 2010 study, based on information of MastersPortal.eu, found that Belgium only achieved only ± half of what The Netherlands achieved, with regards to English-taught master's programs.22 A similar, but larger publication; again portrayed by the Institute of International Education (IEE) , and by the same authors, shows that this disparity remained ± constant between at least 2007-2011 (with a mean of 22.6 % of the Nr° of English-Taught Master's Programs offered in Belgium, compared to The Netherlands, with a StandardDeviation of 0.04274).23
Jef StaesAnother Belgian keynote lecturer on information driven innovation is Jef Staes . His often used analogy with sheep is applicable to slavish students who kill of their deeper motivations to show how obedient they can be by getting mass psychosis for little points on a piece of paper.
Jef Staes, The naked sheep, talk at TEDxFlanders, 26/3/2014
Our 2D-schools create the illusion of learning.
Jef Staes, Brake for Red Monkeys, talk at TEDxUtrecht, 17/4/2014
End at startAnother story from the hackers, which might; one day; delete many possible reasons for credits. Sensors, embedded in your glasses can register what you read and when you see it; or detect fatigue. Coupled with brain sensors, online data and speech analysis, this could revolutionize tracking of learned content. It could easily make exams and formal credits redundant. Since nothing is needed to be accredited: the actual content itself is being registered. The whole story is told again and again. Who knows, perhaps one day the formalization called money will disappear by similar improvements?
- Enhancing Teacher Education Through OER The Open Education Consortium.
- History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education Duke University.
- E-learning and Digital Cultures University of Edinburgh.
- e-Learning Ecologies University of Illinois.
- University Teaching 101 John Hopkins University.
- Week 6: Online Teaching and Learning.
- Gamification OpenLearning.
- Technology Diffusion and Models of Change in Education University of Canterbury & Otago Polytechnic.
- The e-Learning Maturity Model (eMM) University of Canterbury & Otago Polytechnic.
- OER Development Project Otago Polytechnic.
- Flipped Classroom Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).
- Education aux médias et à l'information à l'ère du numérique (eFAN) ENS Cachan & ENS Lyon.
- Tecnologías para la Educación Technical University of Valencia.
- Estrategias Metodológicas para el Docente E-learning (4.ª edición) University of San Martín de Porres (USMP).
- Competências Digitais para professores Universidade Aberta.
P.S.Learners and teachers; thus: humanity; we are each other's maieutikos. This criticism was written to encourage your meaningful possibilities. I believe in humanity's great potential. Do not hesitate to contact me for any matter, I am dying with plenty of energy for you. With pleasure and gratitude I wish you universal peace.
- 1. Its first MOOC was launched in 9/2012, as mentioned in:
▸ http://moocs.epfl.ch/files/content/sites/moocs/files/files/MOOCs-Communication-KIT.pdf, MOOCs activities at EPFL, Center for digital education, 15/3/2013, at 1/1/2015.
On 31/12/2014, I counted 23 MOOCs on their website.
- 2. These were quoted in the presentation: ▸ http://www.kvab.be/d..., Anne Flierman, MOOCs & online HE in Flanders: a QA perspective, Brussels: talk at KVAB symposium, 19/11/2014.
- 3. ▸ http://www.tijd.be/p..., Bart Haeck, KU Leuven krijgt meer EU-geld dan heel Wallonië, De tijd, 25/10/2014, at 1/1/2015
- 4. Originally in Dutch: ▸ http://www.pxl.be/Pu..., ~, Hogeschool PXL maakt vlamingen mediawijs, Hogeschool PXL, 20/5/2014, at: 11/1/2015.
- 5. It is mentioned as a partner in the open education section for teaching personnel: ▸ http://www.kuleuven...., ~, Open Onderwijs, KU Leuven, ~, at 31/12/2014.
- 6. The first letter specifies a building. It's easy to find its exact address via this map. The first digit of the number specifies a floor. I have added the seating capacity, in number of people, between parentheses: • C.003 (237). • C.104 (36). • K.001 (700). • R.001 (300). • R.218 (52). • R.219 (52). A more complete description of the rooms is available in Dutch.
- 7. To which my gratitude for his generous sharing of time, which I consider rare in today's universitary climate. Among many interesting observations by Joachim Leilich; during our discussion about education and research in general; I would like to take the liberty of stating that he regrets the financial constructions, decided upon by the Flemish ministry of education; which instrumentalize the, in many cases ridiculous and un-justified, elimination of empathy & cooperation between the different Belgian institutions; by acquiring as much formal quantities (e.g. PhD theses) as possible, which can even dangerously oppose the guarantee of quality in research and education.
- 8. "Non scholae sed vitae discimus." is:
• translated form Latin as:
We don't learn for school, but for life.• an inversion of Lucius Annaeus Seneca's original sentence:
Non vitae, sed scholae discimus.which is a pejorative descriptive critique; and can e.g. be found translated as:
We learn our lessons, not for life, but for the lecture-room.See a bilingual (Latin-English) translation: ▸ https://archive.org/..., Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, letter 106, §12, ±4BC-65, translated by Richard Gummere, Moral letters to Lucilius, vol.3, Harvard university press, 1971, first: 1925. A well-structured English-only copy of the above mentioned translation is also available. Alternatively, there exists the original Latin letter in clean text.
- 9. Borrowed from Ancient Greek:
- 10. ▸ http://db.nelsonmand..., Nelson Mandela, Lightning your way to a better future, Johannesburg: talk at University of the Witwatersrand, 16/7/2003.
- 11. ▸ http://www.zeit.de/s..., Marion Schmidt, Digitale Vorlesungshäppchen revolutionieren die Bildung, Zeit online, 6/6/2013.
- 12. ▸ http://eacea.ec.euro..., ~, Modernisation of higher education in Europe. Funding and the social dimension, Eurydice, p. 47, 2011. The full report is available in many other languages, the highlights in even more.
- 13. ▸ http://monthlyreview..., Albert Einstein, Why socialism?, Monthly review 61 (1), p. 55-61, 2009.
The second paragraph seems to have occurred first in a speech on education and socialism in 1930.
- 14. The last sentence from "Abstract", as can be read on the page:
▸ http://dare.uva.nl/r..., Jeroen Ruwaard, The efficacy and effectiveness of online CBT, Digital Academic Repository of the University of Amsterdam (UvA-DARE), at 18/5/2015.
- 15. a. b. ▸ http://www.stager.or..., Seymour Papert, New Theories for New Learnings, talk at the National Association of School Psychologists' Conference, 18/4/1984.
- 16. http://openeducation..., High level group on the modernization of higher education, New modes of learning and teaching in higher education, Publications office of the European Union, p. 45, 10/2014.
- 17. a. b. c. ▸ https://archive.org/..., Albert Einstein, The world as I see it, ~, ~, first: New York: Covici Friede Publishers, 1949.
- 18. ▸ http://einsteinpaper..., Albert Einstein, On the Contribution of Intellectuals to International Reconciliation, The collected papers of Albert Einstein, vol. 7. The Berlin Years. Writings. 1918-1921, p. 362, 2002. First in German: ▸ http://alberteinstei..., Thoughts on reconciliation, New York: Deutscher gesellig-wissenschaftlicher Verein von New York, 1920, pp. 10-11.
- 19. ▸ https://www.duo.uio...., Pål Kolstø, National symbols as signs of unity and division, Ethnic and Racial Studies 29 (4), pp. 676-701, 2006, [electronic version of an article published in Ethnic and Racial Studies | p. 28]
- 20. My gratitude goes to Frank van Splunder, who was so kind to help me understand these data, during private correspondence:
The percentages with regard to English at Flemish universities, are based on my own research in 2008-2009 (inquiries with the faculties), and are general (even though English remains much more limited in the bachelors than in the masters).Translated from Dutch:
De percentages in verband met het Engels aan Vlaamse universiteiten zijn gebaseerd op mijn eigen opzoekingen in 2008-2009 (navraag bij faculteiten), en zijn algemeen (al blijft het Engels in de bachelors veel beperkter dan in de masters).
- 21. The author, Frank van Splunder, then refers to the following source:
▸ Ulrich Ammon & Grant McConnell, English as an Academic Language in Europe. A Survey of its Use in Teaching, 2002, p. 42.
- 22. ▸ http://www.nxtbook.c..., Megan Brenn-White & Edwin van Rest, Trends in English-Taught Master's Programs in Europe, IEENetworker Magazine (Fall 2010), 2010, p. 21.
- 23. ▸ http://www.iie.org/R..., Megan Brenn-White & Edwin van Rest, English-Taught Master's Programs in Europe. New Findings on Supply and Demand, Institute of International Education, 2012, p.8.