FAQ on University of Copenhagen's work with MOOCs

Why does the University of Copenhagen offer massive open online courses?

There are several reasons why the University of Copenhagen and all of its six faculties have decided to offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

One primary reason is that it is our belief that the new technologies and rapid innovation within online learning will ultimately lead to better education – not just for the University’s many thousands of MOOC students, but also for the students enrolled at the University of Copenhagen.

Integrating MOOCs with on campus courses provide the students with an opportunity to be part of a truly global class room, which among many other features offer the students an international professional network and a global outlook on career opportunities. The integration of new technologies, pedagogies, and blended approaches to learning, can also offer both students and instructors a much more interesting, challenging and inspiring class room experience on normal campus based courses. In this way our work with MOOCs is a natural part of the on-going work to continually increase the quality of the study programs offered by the University, as well as strengthening the employability of our graduates.

Another reason is the sharing of knowledge. At the University of Copenhagen we consider MOOCs to be a democratisation of access to knowledge which ties in well with our commitment to the tradition that research and teaching should benefit society at large. We are already operating in a globalised world of research and education, and through collaboration with Coursera the University’s interaction with the world is considerably strengthened.

Finally, the University of Copenhagen can use the involvement in MOOCs to attract international students to its study programmes, and improve access to life-long learning in Denmark and beyond. It is also an efficient way of highlighting the work of internationally leading research groups at the University of Copenhagen, thereby attracting international talent to our Faculties.

How many students are there on the MOOCs that the University of Copenhagen is offering?

Student activity data for all UCPH MOOCs are released after each session has finished. They are available in the impact section of this website. The accumulated data for all UCPH’s MOOCs can be found here. The reason why we do not have these numbers until after a course finishes, is that the courses stay open for enrolment even after the course starts, so people can join (and leave) during all the weeks of the course.

Because enrolment numbers say little about the success or failure of a MOOC we prefer to just count so-called Active students – that is a student who not just signs up, but also enters the course room and interacts with the course material. Generally the experience is that just a little over half of the people who sign up end up participating in the course. The number of people who end up finishing the entire course and receiving a certificate depend greatly on the workload, topic and format of the course, but usually it is somewhere between 5 and 20% of the active students.

Why do only a small part of the students that start on a MOOC end up completing it?

In 2012, when MOOCs first started appearing, much attention was given to the extremely high number of enrolled students – some courses boasted several hundred thousand enrolees. As more studies have been made of MOOC student activity levels and learning patterns, it has become clear that students do not join a MOOC with the same expectations of completing the course as they do on the smaller credit-bearing (online or campus based) courses in traditional study programmes. And furthermore, since MOOCs are free and there are no restrictions on access, many people will sign up but never enter the online course room and interact with the course materials.

So although it is obviously nice to see a great number of students interacting with the entire course material that is not necessarily the best way to measure if a certain MOOC is a success. Due to the flexibility of the format the University embraces the many ways a course participant can benefit from a MOOC, and letting the participants pick and choose the elements that they find important and worthwhile is just a way of accepting more individually tailored and adaptive ways of learning.

Do course participants receive university credit for passing a MOOC from the University of Copenhagen?

The University of Copenhagen does not offer ECTS credits for completion of a MOOC.

Course participants who complete a MOOC by doing all assignments and living up to the grading criteria will receive a so-called Statement of Accomplishment or Verified Certificate. These documents are issued electronically by Coursera.

Some credit bearing courses have students from the University of Copenhagen participating in a MOOC as part of their UCPH studies. This blended format is an experiment, where the educational materials and large peer-network of the MOOC can enrich the learning experience and improve outcomes by flipping the class room of a campus-based course. In such cases the students will of course receive ECTS credits from the campus based course which is a part of their own programme curricula.

Does MOOCs and online learning mean that the UCPH students will spend less time with their professors/instructors?

The University of Copenhagen is committed to the idea that an important part of quality education is close contact between students and faculty.

Because of this the University does not consider MOOCs as an alternative to traditional class room courses nor as something that will ever replace the campus experience. Instead they are seen as an add-on – something that can enrich the educational experience, like we know it from field trips, case based learning, guest lecturers, lab experiments, group work and many other pedagogical tools in the educator’s toolbox. Rather than shortening the time that professors and students spend together, MOOCs have the potential to make their shared time more interesting, challenging and conducive to learning.

Are MOOCs a threat to the future of higher education as we know it?

At the University of Copenhagen we do not consider these new developments in educational technologies and online pedagogies as a threat to the University’s role as a centre for creation and dissemination of knowledge and higher education. We embrace the advantages that new technologies can render the learning experience of our students, and believe it is fruitful to experiment with different formats in our never-ending quest to improve education and share our knowledge with the world.

What is the difference between MOOCs and other forms of online learning?

One major difference is that MOOCs are not credit bearing. They are designed to scale – so thousands of students can follow the same course – so the student-instructor ratio is very low on MOOCs. This means that there is only a very limited opportunity for direct interaction with the professor. On MOOCs most of the moderation of online discussions forums is undertaken by fellow course participants, or participants from previous sessions of same course (So-called Community Teaching Assistants).

Smaller scale credit bearing online courses, will often be closely moderated, and offer much the same advantages as the traditional class room teaching – such as close and real-time contact with a professor and good opportunities for feedback. These types of courses have shown great results in facilitating group work and interaction between students and instructor.

Generally, though, both formats can learn a lot from each other. Just like online education can learn from great class room education – and vice versa.

Does the University of Copenhagen offer other online courses than the MOOCs offered on the Coursera platform?

Yes, many different ones. Some big players in the production of these courses are the IT Learning Center at the Faculty of Science, and Center for Online and Blended Learning at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

Who owns the course materials that are made for the MOOCs?

The material you see online is produced in collaboration by many different people at the University: professors, guest lecturers and academic assistants, as well as administrative and technical staff.

The University of Copenhagen owns all material produced for the courses (unless otherwise stated), and the material can be withdrawn from the Coursera platform at the University’s discretion.

How are the MOOCs from University of Copenhagen financed?

The production cost is paid for by the Faculties and Departments that are offering the courses.

Who decides which courses the University will offer on Coursera?

The project is Faculty-based, and the Steering Committee, which has members from all six faculties, decides which courses to offer.