Open online education puts the Netherlands in the global spotlight

How the extremely successful massive open online course (MOOC) developed by Nuffic, the Netherlands Education Support Offices (Nesos) and Dutch Centres for Entrepreneurship forms a blueprint for future Dutch knowledge diplomacy.
MOOC

Ten online lectures, 20 international experts and thousands of participants from a range of different countries: the recent MOOC on Global entrepreneurship proved to be the ideal way to bring talent together, promote cooperation and showcase Dutch expertise.

Global reach

The online courses were a follow-up to last year’s MOOC, which involved the Netherlands and Russia. This time, the MOOC had a global reach thanks to the involvement of all 9 of Nuffic’s Nesos. The course took place from 20 April to 27 May and participation was free of charge. The participants came from countries including Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Vietnam, India and Brazil.

For each lecture, a Dutch expert was paired with a colleague from a Neso country. The lectures were designed by Hein Roelfsema of the Dutch Center for Entrepreneurship, also Associate Professor of International Entrepreneurship at Utrecht University. He had no trouble finding professors and experts in his network who were willing to take part.

Interest in online education

“In academia, there is still much interest in large-scale online education – partly due to the coronavirus,” Hein says. “I even received emails from universities asking why they had not been invited. The potential reach is huge, of course. We had no fewer than 7,000 registrations for this MOOC. You could never have that many attend a conference in real life.”

As an example, Enno Masurel of VU University Amsterdam gave a lecture on entrepreneurship and economic development. He did this together with NL Alumnus (Wageningen) Audy Joinaldy of the Governor Office of West Sumatra. Nancy Bocken of Maastricht University gave a lecture on circular enterprise together with Xiaohui Liang of Peking University Law School.

Other topics covered included financing, upscaling, digitalisation and social entrepreneurship.

“We had no fewer than 7,000 registrations for this MOOC. You could never have that many attend a conference in real life.”

The Netherlands as a knowledge nation

Thanks to their virtually unlimited reach, MOOCs are ideally suited to drawing attention to the Netherlands as a knowledge nation, in this case in the field of entrepreneurship.

A logical choice, according to Hein. “We are a nation of entrepreneurs, and not just because we set up many businesses. The Dutch are also interested in innovation, social impact, sustainability and digitalisation. We seek and find a balance between business and social impact more often than happens in other countries. Countries such as France and Germany also organise MOOCs, but not on entrepreneurship.”

“Thanks to our extensive networks, we are able to bring together international talent around themes that are important to the Netherlands.”

Jerke Verschoor of Neso Russia refers to a ‘calling card’ for the Netherlands. Following the previous MOOC, his office also initiated this new edition. “We position the Netherlands as an open and enterprising country that promotes cooperation and seeks dialogue. The online interaction is extremely valuable. A MOOC brings experts and participants into contact with one another in real time. It may not be a face-to-face exchange, but it does offer opportunities to bring people from all over the world together.”

Hein Roelfsema

Photo: Hein Roelfsema

“We put the Netherlands in the spotlight internationally. We hope that the participants will think: that is the place to be, the Netherlands is where things happen.”

Top of the world

Feedback from participants shows that Hein and Jerke have succeeded in their aim. As many as 96 per cent of participants indicated that they were ‘mostly’ or ‘entirely’ satisfied with the online course. The level of commitment was high: 83 per cent attended 8 or more lectures. “I liked the fact that the theory was translated into practice each time,” one participant said.
Others praised the quality of the professors, the international insights and the fascinating topics. As such, this MOOC forms a blueprint for future Dutch knowledge diplomacy. Neso Russia already has plans for the next edition, while Hein is thinking about another follow-up, possibly in the form of a summer school.

“By joining forces as Nuffic, Nesos and Dutch Centres for Entrepreneurship, we offer added value to students from all over the world,” says Jerke. “Thanks to our extensive networks, we are able to bring together international talent around themes that are important to the Netherlands.”

Hein: “We put the Netherlands in the spotlight internationally. Participants are treated to lectures from top Dutch higher education and science professionals. We hope that the participants will think: that is the place to be, the Netherlands is where things happen. We should definitely encourage that image, because what we do here really puts us on top of the world.”

Massive open online course

Read more about the recent MOOC en de Dutch Centers for Entrepreneurship.