MOOC launch celebrated with fizz and folk dance

Lund University’s MOOCs have now started. First to launch was the Faculty of Law course in European Business Law, closely followed by Greening the Economy from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), and later in the spring the Faculty of Medicine’s course in sexual health will take place. The number of people registered for the courses has exceeded expectations and there is a lot of interest from developing countries in particular.

MOOCs 1 BREDMOOC stands for massive open online course, a free online course open to anyone. There are no specific admission requirements and the courses do not lead to academic credits; instead, they are aimed at the general public.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg, who has responsibility for education, sees the three MOOCs as a test of how to communicate with wider society in new ways.

“MOOCs are growing worldwide and are a way of reaching out to groups that do not normally have any contact with universities. It is significant that so many participants come from developing countries”, she says.

Marita Ljungqvist, central educational development officer, is project manager for the University’s MOOCs. She also sees this project as a major internal challenge.

“We have chosen to offer MOOCs to develop our own expertise in online teaching and learning and to investigate how people learn on this type of platform. By offering open courses, we can share what we are best at, while improving our ability to teach in new ways”, says Marita Ljungqvist.

At both the Faculty of Medicine and the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, careful preparations have preceded the launch of the courses. Peter Arnfalk, one of 21 teaching staff on the Greening the Economy course and the course coordinator, explains that a total of 60 people have been involved in the preparations, which have taken a year. One of the students who is involved in supporting the lecturers and students and making sure everything runs smoothly is Anna Bartford, a Master’s student from Canada.

“I feel quite calm at the moment, before the course starts”, she says. “We have looked at how other universities have structured and run MOOCs in the US and learnt a lot from that.”

Because MOOCs are aimed at such large numbers, the concept is based on students helping one another. There is an active forum with discussions on everything from course content to technical problems. The students also help to assess one another’s work.

At the Faculty of Law, a number of older students help to answer any questions that the course participants are not able to find an answer to on their own. Ahead of the course start in mid-January, the faculty recorded around 50 lectures, drew up syllabi and worked to ensure that the technical aspects ran smoothly. The course comprises a number of units in different subjects, with tests for each. Those who want to reach an even higher level have the opportunity to write an essay.

The Faculty of Law course has attracted over 28 000 registrations from 180 countries – a figure that surprises Hans-Henrik Lidgard, Professor of Civil Law and coordinator of the MOOC.

“One third of the registrations come from developing countries, and it is fascinating that so many people want to take the course, despite the fact that it is so advanced and requires certain prior knowledge of law. We hope to be able to provide some practical tools to people wanting to work with the EU. We also reach out to the whole world in a way that we couldn’t have done otherwise”, says Hans-Henrik Lidgard.

The course offered by the IIIEE has attracted almost 18 000 registrations from 170 different countries, which Professor Lena Neij, director of the institute, thinks is a very good figure. The launch of the MOOC coincided with the institute’s 20th anniversary and they killed two birds with one stone with a party in the main hall. Those who didn’t know the steps to the Swedish folk dance schottis picked it up quickly, and during the dancing the MOOCs were projected onto the whiteboard at the front of the hall.

Text: Jonas Andersson, Maria Lindh

Photo: Gunnar Menander

MOOCs at LU. Following proposals from LU’s faculties, three courses were selected to be the University’s first MOOCs. Besides European Business Law and Greening the Economy: lessons and experiences from Scandinavia, the third course Global Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights will begin later in the spring. Of those who register for MOOCs, it is usually estimated that a third actually participate, but as many as 11 700 have started on the Faculty of Law course (of whom half said they had never heard of Lund University before). So far, 16 000 people have registered for the course in sexual health, which is expected to begin in April.

Karolinska Institutet was the first institution in Sweden to offer MOOCs; Lund University is second.