Focus on scalable and stackable online education

Strengthening the foundation of the Extension School

After six years of exponential growth and tremendous success in Open & Online Education for learners worldwide, the foundation of the original setup of the Extension School need enhancement. In 2021 the Extension School will become a TU Delft Institute to educate the world by offering high-quality online education. Portfolio development and the next Call for Proposals will focus on three strategic themes.

In 2019, the Extension School management widely consulted with all deans, directors of educations, academic staff and the faculty coordinators for online education, to evaluate the mission of TU Delft with regard to online education, and to assess its shared strategy and the strengths, opportunities and aspirations. The Extension School’s vision – educate the world and enhance the quality of online and campus education – which guided developments in recent years, is still approved and supported by all consulted parties. Given the European and worldwide trends in Open & Online Education, as well as the consideration and discussion which nowadays surround lifelong learning and the future of work, four recommendations were made to, and accepted by the Executive Board, to continue to build on the Extension School’s successes for the future.

Governance structure

The first recommendation is that production and delivery of online education requires a dedicated support organization for online teaching and for online student support. In addition, academic responsibility for and involvement in the online portfolio is crucial for maintaining the university’s brand and quality standards. Embedding the Extension School in the regular university’s governance structure is therefore important. This will serve to provide a sound foundation for further growth of the online portfolio, and to maintain alignment with TU Delft-wide and faculty-specific strategic ambitions and goals. It is anticipated that to facilitate interfaculty collaboration and to enhance the international visibility of its education, the Extension School will become a TU Delft Institute in 2021.

The second recommendation relates to the first and proposes that a project team is appointed to prepare an executive plan relating to decisions to be taken on the institute’s governance structure, budget and personnel organisation. This project team is led by Arno Smets (professor in Solar Energy at EEMCS) and Willem van Valkenburg.

Portfolio focus

The third recommendation is about the focus of portfolio development going forward. Taking into account current international trends regarding traditional online degrees and large scale and low-cost degrees, focusing on stackable online programmes appears to more closely match and best serve the mission of the Extension School. Analysis showed that working professionals and employers have a great interest in non-degree programmes. Flexible and modular education will offer (open) educational materials as short learning programmes.

To efficiently manage and excel in the Extension School’s mission, the fourth recommendation proposes that future portfolio development focuses on a select number of strategic themes. Market research and faculty management’s opinion following the consultation round, identified three interfaculty themes with high internal readiness and ever-increasing societal relevance: Energy Transition, Sustainable Cities and, The Future of Transportation.

To summarise, Executive Board agreed to a continuation of the Extension School’s current strategy – focused on exploring scalable online formats on these three interfaculty themes – provides the best fit with TU Delft’s institutional strategy and aligns with the value most faculties see in Open & Online Education.

Call for Proposals

The Call for Proposals for contributions to further develop TU Delft’s online portfolio – and enhance its relevance for learners – on these focus themes is now open, until 1 March 2020.

Check the website for details.

Extension School from programme to TU Delft Institute in 2021. Images: CC-BY TU Delft/Mark van Huystee

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