MOOC popularity overwhelms Language Centre

This Monday, the third Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Introduction to Dutch was launched. So far, more than 16,000 people from all over the world have registered.

Earlier this year, more than 33,000 people registered for the first course, although only 17 per cent eventually completed it. ‘That’s actually a reasonable number for online courses’, says Dutch teacher Birgit Lijmbach.

Despite the decline in the number of registrations, they are quite happy at the RUG Language Centre. ‘We were counting on 10,000 registrations, so we were quite overwhelmed when it turned out to be more than 30,000’, says Berna de Boer, head of the Dutch section.

Distorted picture

Besides, the numbers from the first course present a distorted picture, Lijmbach explains. ‘It was the first time that Future Learn, which hosts the MOOC, was offering a language course that started at the 0 level. Plus, we really advertised it back then, which is something we didn’t really do for the current course.’

‘In total, 16,000 people registered for the second course in June. We have the same number for this one. There were 11,000 registrations on Tuesday, so the number is rising steadily. And people can register until November 20.’

The course started on the first Monday in November, but participants can continue to register during the entire three week duration of the course. The digital lessons will remain available even after the end of the three week course, ‘The same way that you can keep a syllabus after a class has ended’, Lijmbach clarifies.

Retired teachers

The registration data reveals that course participants come from all over the world. That is to say, almost the entire world: ‘Africa is not represented very well, which is kind of a shame. Most of the participants are from Europe, and especially England. The course was advertised there a lot, and Future Learn is an English company, of course.’

What is striking is that it is not young people who are making their first foray into Dutch. ‘It’s mainly older people. Retired German teachers who want to learn Dutch in their free time, for instance’, the teacher laughs. ‘But there are actually people of all ages taking the course.’

People have been very enthusiastic about the course. ‘There were even people who said the course made them come to the Netherlands’, de Boer says. ‘And some people even came specifically to Groningen. We did advertise the city really well, of course.’

The Dutch introductory course was developed using innovation funds from the RUG. Now, other sections are also working on setting up MOOCs, for instance in Frisian. The Language Centre also offers other online courses in addition to traditional courses in a classroom setting. For example, the Dutch courses that partners of RUG employees can take at a discount are quite popular, according to de Boer.