Early 2015 marked the start of ChalmersX – the venture of Chalmers MOOCs as a whole.
"This is a new and different way for us to take on the role of knowledge disseminator in our society," says Maria Knutson Wedel, vice president for undergraduate and master’s education at Chalmers.
With a computer and an Internet connection, course participants all over the world can watch video lectures, take part in discussions, do assignments and take exams.
"Previously, we have primarily shared knowledge on a local and national level. The technology today enables global knowledge sharing – we can reach people who need the knowledge in question no matter where they are located in the world," says Maria Knutson Wedel.
To exemplify, she talks about participants in South America who built their own solar panels while taking a mooc on solar energy from Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands.
MOOCs, an abbreviation of massive open online courses, are a growing trend in higher education. Prominent universities such as Harvard, MIT and the University of Tokyo already offer courses. There is a great deal of interest in the courses – each one typically attracts tens of thousands of participants.
Maria Knutson Wedel believes that MOOCs can be very useful as supplementary or continuing professional development for people who are already part of working life. She does not believe that the courses can completely replace a traditional campus education, however.
Campus education are closely connected and designed to correspond to the expectations from industry, for example. This type of education also results in a degree and a title, something which companies consider when hiring.
"However, this probably depends in part on traditional thinking on the part of the people who do the hiring at companies. In the future, we may reach a point that knowledge, regardless of how it has been obtained, becomes more important than certificates and grades," says Maria Knutson Wedel.
The ChalmersX MOOCs will be specially adapted to their context – the recordings will not consist of traditional 45-minute lectures. The teachers who have developed the course have carefully analysed the concepts they want participants to come away with after the course. The content is then condensed into short video clips of 5-7 minutes each.
"This project has given us important insight from the perspective of pedagogy and knowledge in terms of new technology, which we can use in our regular courses as well. Chalmers is a technical university and our goal is to be at the cutting edge," says Maria Knutson Wedel.
The first ChalmersX MOOC will be an introduction to the super-material graphene. The subject is at the forefront of research. A field Chalmers believes in and is prominent within.
"There is a great deal of interest in graphene, and this is a way for us to reach a large number of people with our knowledge," says Maria Knutson Wedel.
Chalmers MOOCs will be accessible through the edx platform. Chalmers will be in good company as prominent universities such as MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Delft offer their MOOCs on the same platform.
Text: Ingela Roos
Photo: Oscar Mattsson
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