Open Education
The research group Open Education is focusing on conducting rigorous and relevant research about conditions, success factors and impact of open education and the development and design of related strategies, frameworks, curricula, courses, tools and services.

Open Education is understood in a broad sense as an umbrella term for activities of educational providers to take away structural constraints for stakeholders via digital technologies by increasing the access and pathways to education and by changing the learning design towards outcome-orientation. For individuals, Open Education offers an alternative path for education, competence development and professionalisation beyond the traditional borders of educational institutions. Learners enter and engage in open educational practices in order to meet, network and collaborate with peers to work, learn and innovate. While in the past the focus was often on the mere publication of open educational resources (OER), nowadays educational providers around the world are pushing Open Education a step further by offering a full educational experience in the form of open courses and MOOCs.

Prof. Dr. Kalz, Marco


The topic of openness has transformed from an exclusive topic mainly dealt with by Open Universities to a topic that most educational institutions are in one or the other way dealing with today. While some authors and policymakers embrace this movement as the long awaited breakthrough for the education of the masses with the help of digital technologies, research is lacking behind with regard to impact and (hidden) conditions and (often unintended) consequences of these initiatives for higher education as a whole and the individual institutions (Giddens, 1984). The research group on open education addresses the “lack of rigorous critical engagement with Open Education’s core precepts” and the proactive engagement with new technologies to “generate possibilities for a radically different model of the university” (Van Mourik Broekman, Hall, Byfield, & Worthington, 2015).

The research group is conducting research on three different levels:

  • On the micro-level research is conducted on the level of the individual learner.
  • On a meso-level research is conducted on the level of the course and the organizational design and provision.
  • On the macro-level research is conducted about the impact of open education on the educational institution, the education system and the society.

These topics are approached by the integration of three different perspectives:

Structuration of Open educational processes and practices

The perspective of structuration of open educational processes and practices (OEP) deals with the analysis of current practices of provisioning of open education and impact for the learner. A special focus is given to the phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as means for increasing access to (higher) education, to support lifelong learning of professionals and last but not least to address societal challenges. Research questions are dealing with new perspectives for success measurement, the role of motivation and self-regulated learning skills and the intention-behaviour gap in open education.

Design for knowledge and competence acquisition in large-scale learning networks

The scale aspect of open education asks for new approaches beyond traditional course design. These approaches are needed to challenge the currently dominating practices of knowledge transfer and lecture-based open courses. Research is dealing with new approaches for designing large-scale educational learning formats and the educational scalability of course design and feedback/assessment practices. Scalability of open education is regarded as a key challenge for open education but also for education in general taking into account future growth scenarios of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) as well challenges of the national and regional school education systems.

Open Educational Innovations

While educational institutions and policymakers use open education actively to pursue strategic goals, the impact of open education on educational institutions is not sufficiently researched. Open education is often expected to function as a means for innovation of educational practices. In practice, this innovation process and the conditions for its success on the organizational level and the policy making level are unclear. This research line deals with the organizational and societal impact of open education, institutional support structures and policy perspectives.

Methodological approach

The research group combines quantitative and qualitative approaches on all three levels and in particular strives for a combination of survey-data and behavioural data for analyzing learner profiles and effects.

Research questions

The research is driven by the following leading research questions:

  • What are the pre-conditions for a successful learning experience in open education?
  • What are objective and suitable measurements of success in open education?
  • How can educational design contribute to scalability of the educational experience while maintaining quality?
  • What is the effect of open education on the educational institution?
  • What kind of networked practices best support value- and knowledge creation, or innovation in a developing domain?
  • Which kinds of participation (and thus, learning) are necessary to shape the transition to more open practices?
  • How, and through which interactions between ‘actors’ do structural characteristics of learning networks emerge?
  • What constitutes a (productive) interaction between learners (with specific characteristics and experiences) and other available resources, or in what constellation are the best outcomes produced?


Projects (running):

Projects (finalized):


Key publications:

  • Drachsler, H., & Kalz, M. (2016). The MOOC and learning analytics innovation cycle (MOLAC): a reflective summary of ongoing research and its challenges. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(3), 281-290.
  • Stracke, C. M. (2015). The Need to Change Education towards Open Learning. In C. M. Stracke & T. Shamarina-Heidenreich (Eds.), The Need for Change in Education: Openness as Default?. Berlin: Logos. pp. 11-23.
  • Spoelstra, H., Van Rosmalen, P., Houtmans, T., & Sloep, P. B. (2015). Team formation instruments to enhance learner interactions in open learning environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 11-20.
  • Kalz, M., Kreijns, K., Walhout, J., Castaño-Munoz, J., Espasa, A., & Tovar, E. (2015) Establishing a European cross-provider data collection about open online courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL). 16(6), 62-77.
  • Brouns, F., Serrano Martínez-Santos, N., Civera, J., Kalz, M., & Juan, A. (2015). Supporting language diversity of European MOOCs with the EMMA platform. In M. Lebrun, M. Ebner, I. de Waard, & M. Gaebel (Eds.), Proceedings of the Third European MOOCs Stakeholder Summit (eMOOCs2015) (pp. 157-165). May, 18-20, 2015, Mons, Belgium.
  • Stracke, C. M. (2014). Evaluation Framework EFI for Measuring the Impact of Learning, Education and Training. 华东师范大学学报(自然科学版)Journal of East China Normal University, vol. 2014 (2). Shanghai: ECNU. pp. 1-12.
  • Spoelstra, H., Van Rosmalen, P., & Sloep, P. B. (2014). Toward Project-based Learning and Team Formation in Open Learning Environments. Journal of Universal Computer Science, 20(1), 57-76.
  • Kalz, M. & Specht, M. (2013). If MOOCS are the answer, did we ask the right questions? Implications for the design of large-scale online-courses. Working paper 2013/25. Maastricht School of Management, Maastricht.
  • Klemke, R., Kalz, M., Ternier, S., & Specht, M. (2010). Implementing infrastructures for managing learning objects. British Journal of Educational Technology. 41 (6).