Wageningen University is giving its first online courses this month and they are attracting interest from all over the world. Almost 40,000 people from 196 countries have registered for the first of what are known as MOOCs (‘massive online open courses’). This month the university is starting with two courses: one on nutrition and health, and one on production ecology in crop cultivation. The decision to provide open, online courses on these topics was made because Wageningen University believes in widely disseminating knowledge on sustainably produced healthy foods for the growing world population.
The MOOC is a new and, according to Wageningen University, promising educational development; large numbers of people are likely to be interested in the courses and can participate by following a complete learning pathway, independent of time of day or distance. Unlike most online lectures, MOOCs include diverse materials, such as video clips and animations. Furthermore, the courses are interactive, so participants are required to take an active part in practical tasks, tests, answering questions or discussion forums.
To create its MOOCs, Wageningen University is using the well-known edX platform developed by Harvard University and MIT Boston (US), where large numbers of universities, including TU Delft, and top-ranking institutes from all over the world offer their online courses.
Wageningen University is starting with two courses, Introduction to Nutrition - Food for Health and Growing our future food: Crops, each of which lasts eight weeks. The choice of topic was influenced by the global challenge of how to ensure more than nine billion people follow a safe and healthy diet in 2050. At the same time the environmental impact must be drastically reduced. The first course, an introduction to nutrition and health, starts on 12 January.
Almost 40,000 people have shown interest, with registrations in 196 countries (out of the 206 countries in the world. Source: Wikipedia). In addition to approximately 1000 participants in the Netherlands, there are many registrations in the US and India, but also in countries such as Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Turkmenistan and Tonga.
Most of those registering have an academic background. Some have received pre-university education equivalent to the Dutch VWO. In terms of age, most participants (around 44%) are between 26 and 40 years old. A slightly higher number of women than men have registered for the course on nutrition. More men will be participating in the second course on crop cultivation, starting on 26 January.
Wageningen University expects around 5000 of the 40,000 registered participants to complete the whole course. Some of these may also be motivated to attend campus follow-on courses in Wageningen, including in-depth lectures, tutorials, practicals or workshops.