Five years of Extension School

After five years of open online education at TU Delft, the extension school celebrates its anniversary. Let’s look back at its MOOCs and innovative teaching.

Students working on a new MOOC.

Since it was established in 2014, the extension school has grown to reach over 2.3 million online learners worldwide. Right now the online school offers over 80 MOOCs (massive open online courses), 25 online academic courses, 35 professional education courses, 12 short programmes and 200 courses in Open Course Ware, that daily attract an average of 1,400 people.


Societal impact

Besides teaching students and professionals, the extension school also contributes to solving a number of societal challenges. “In particular around themes related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – such as sustainability and affordable and clean energy,” says Rob Mudde, Vice President of TU Delft.

An example of such a course is the Solar Energy MOOC developed by Arno Smets. The programme gives students from all over the world the opportunity to learn about solar energy systems and teaches them how to apply that knowledge in practice. One of the students completing the MOOC is Colombian native Andersson Contreras Olmos, who was able to reduce his energy costs by 50% by building his own solar system. He now hopes to share his knowledge on converting solar energy into electricity with the Wounaan, an indigenous community living in Colombia.

Contreras Olmos’ story shows that the impact of TU Delft’s education programme goes beyond the borders of physical classrooms. Last year the programme was even recognised in MIT’s Global state of the art in engineering education report as a front-runner and thought-leader in online education.

One might think that such a promising programme would also lead to an increase of new students at the campus. But a causal connection cannot be claimed. In the academic year 2015-2016, around 12% of international campus applicants did, however, take at least one of the MOOCs before applying.

Flipped classrooms

For Ernst ten Heuvelhof, Director of Education TU Delft, celebrating online success however is also about developing innovative teaching on campus. “We have seen positive results from the re-use of online materials and active learning techniques in a flipped-classroom approach. It increases flexibility for both instructors and students and higher completion and pass rates. The opportunity to re-think a course, its content and the didactical approach often translates into an enhanced learning process for our students.”


Looking back on the last five years, TU Delft hopes to further develop online education for the benefit of higher education, campus learning and society as a whole. To this end the university will hold several events on Friday 8 March. As part of the open education week, the Teaching Lab at Pulse will be home to workshops and panel discussions. Registration is required.

TU Delft Extension School celebrates its first five year anniversary. (Photo: TU Delft)

TU Delft Extension School celebrates its first five year anniversary. (Photo: TU Delft)

News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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