We’ve all been spending a lot of time at home since coronavirus came along. Why not make a virtue of necessity and take part in free online lectures? The number of people taking part in MOOCs has risen sharply since the first lockdown began in March.
(Photo: TU Delft)

We’ve all been spending a lot of time at home since coronavirus came along. Why not make a virtue of necessity and take part in free online lectures?

Lees in het Nederlands

Following the government’s appeals to stay at home as much as possible, many people have found themselves new hobbies. They have been walking, baking, getting fit and making things at home. And taking part in a free online course – or a MOOC as they’re known (massive online open course) – has also become more popular than ever. These courses are being attended by participants from all over the world.

Milestone
The 3 millionth MOOC participant recently registered with TU Delft. The milestone was reached earlier than expected, probably due to the crisis. When many countries went into lockdown for the first time in March, the number of registrations tripled from 6,000 a week to about 20,000 a week.

By the summer, registrations had fallen back to more normal levels, but it remains to be seen what will happen if there is another lockdown. The rising popularity of MOOCs is also said to have helped the university in its move towards online education.

New normal
At Wageningen University, too, MOOCs have increased in popularity. One million people have already registered for MOOCs there. The number of registrations has doubled or tripled since the March lockdown, writes Resource.

The same applies at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Its MOOC on econometrics attracted an average of 1,043 registrations per week between the end of March and the end of April, compared to 325 per week before the lockdown. In the weeks that followed, enrolments stabilised at a ‘new normal’ level of 731 students per week. ‘The pandemic has led to at least a doubling in the amount of interest in this MOOC,’ Rotterdam econometricians concluded in July.

Employability
This trend is not confined to the Netherlands. The MOOC platform Coursera, which collaborates with 150 universities from all over the world, has seen 21 million new enrolments since March, the company says. That’s fully three and a half times more than in the same period last year. Most of the new students come from the United States, India, Mexico, China and Brazil.

According to Coursera, labour market insecurity and rising unemployment are also playing a role in the popularity of MOOCs. Now more than ever, people want to acquire new knowledge and skills in order to remain employable in the future. And online education has become much more widespread everywhere since the start of the crisis.

HOP, Evelien Flink
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU