From Holland to Indonesia: Anka Mulder of TU Delft Knows the International Impact of OCW

By Stacy Redd

Anka Mulder Tell us about Delft's OCW initiative.

Anka Mulder: We started a few years ago. Our university's well known for its research and we offer very good education as well. The school's also very international; about 60% of our Ph.D. students and a quarter of our master's degree students come from all over the world. So putting our programs on the Web was very important for us. It shows the world what to expect when they go to study at Delft, what the quality of our education is. I think that was one of the important reasons for us supporting OCW.

Our approach isn't the same as MIT's, who puts everything online. We picked a few master's degree courses that we thought were interesting for people all around the world and that we thought were very good. We chose nanoscience, for example, because it's is very good at Delft and we have a strong international reputation for it.

A number of other graduate-level courses also joined. For instance, the water management department signed up; they've been active in ICT (information and communication technologies) and using the Web for a long period of time. They're also active in lifelong learning. They teach professionals who already work in the water industry, so for them the choice to use ICT in education was very easy. How have you globalized your OCW offerings?

AM: Our water management program is well known all over the world. About two years ago, the water management department got a grant from the Ministry of Economic Affairs for their OCW offerings and also to teach in Indonesia, a country that, like many, has water management problems or needs to build up its expertise in water management. We cooperate with the University of Bandung. Sometimes our lecturers even travel over to Indonesia.

The course materials are all in English. The people in Bandung used case studies to localize the materials; you can imagine water management in Indonesia might be slightly different than in the Netherlands. The basics are the same, the math is the same, but I'm sure they have different problems than we do in Holland. It's been really successful, and the water management group has already worked with a lot of other universities as well. For instance, we have a double degree program with Singapore University, where students take courses in Singapore for a year, then they come to Holland for a year. That's not online education, although we use OCW in that too. How did you personally get involved with OCW?

AM: I heard what MIT was doing through my university, and I thought it could be something to help us. We see MIT as one of the top universities in the technical field in which Delft also belongs. So a few of us decided we want to be a part of what they're doing.

We tried to convince the Executive Board, my bosses, to go along with this, and that was really easy. People sometimes ask me if we developed a business case, and we did, in a way, but quite frankly we didn't have a very clear idea where it was heading. I think that's still the case for many universities. You know you have to be involved if you want to be an innovating university. It doesn't really matter if you're not sure where that innovation's headed. The involvement's been very positive for us, I think. Once you've started OCW, you've got this wealth of information online, and you can use it for all kinds of things. Would you like to have all of your course materials online, or do you have a specific plan for what's going to be made OCW?

AM: I think it would be nice to put everything online, but I think if we look at our resources, that's not the way we'll go. It's easier to convince new, young staff to put their stuff up online. I think it's more important to look at what you actually want to do with OCW. So far the movement has been very much about just putting what you have to offer online. I think looking at demand will be a much more important development over the next five years or so. How do students actually use the materials? What do they need and how can we help them use it? That's what I would like to focus on. Let's talk more about where OCW is headed.

AM: The last few years, there's been this discussion about the granularity of materials - should we have little snippets of five minutes of information, or do we need to think completely differently? When you're a student, you probably want to either know something about a specific subject or you want to study for a degree. If you want to have a degree, snippets of information are not enough. You need a structure. You need to know which courses you have to take to get your degree. That's I think what Water Management has been good at. They offer a coherent learning line in their program, which they can then transfer to a totally different country. I think it's more important to offer a whole program, enabling students to study all of it that's required to actually get a diploma. Do you see OCW ever offering credit?

AM: I think that's a very difficult question, because I'm sure every university is thinking about their value in the future, their reason to exist. In the case of Delft, which has a good reputation, we're very much in favor of putting all our information on the Internet, but I think you'd have to get your accredited diploma from us. But I also think there will be universities that use OCW from all kinds of other universities and turn it into a diploma. I know there are already universities that do that now, and I think that's also a good thing. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about your program?

AM: Sometimes I find worldwide rankings of OCW, and I'm always extremely happy to see that we score. We're a small country with a good university. To be there in the top is very important for us.

Try out some of TU Delft's courses or learn more about OCW.

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