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. In a nutshell, the research group explores theoretical and applied issues related to how the internet and networking technologies have enabled new learning models mediated by digital resources.

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 activities of individuals to participate in open and networked communities of practice for the purpose of learning. 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 learning communities, open courses and MOOCs.

Anouschka Lahay in gesprek met Robert Schuwer en Marco Kalz in de UNESCO-Masterclass serie ‘UNESCO en de Sustainable Development Goals’. Onderwerpen zijn hun werk als UNESCO leerstoelhouder, ‘Open Educational Resources’ en onderzoek naar ‘Open educatie’. Robert Schuwer, UNESCO Chair in Open Educational Resources en Marco Kalz, UNESCO Chair in Open Education.


Watch the topic's webinar series for the Open Education Week 2016!


Open education and open learning is placed in a middle space in which formal educational institutions offer learning material and courses for learning who often use these learning opportunities in a non-formal way. This middle-space between formal education and non-formal learning creates confusion and 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 and actors (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).

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 (current)

    The SOONER project focuses on fundamental and accompagnying research about open online education (OOE) in the Netherlands.
    SOONER results page on NWO
    COMPETEN-SEA focuses on building capacity to Organize Massive Public Educational Opportunities in Universities of Southeast Asia
    http://competen-sea.eu (niet langer beschikbaar, project eindigde in 2019)
  • UN Environment MOOC on Marine Litter
    The research group contributes to design and implementation of a global MOOC on Marine Litter and conducts research on action-oriented design of open online courses.
  • MOOQ
    MOOQ’s mission is to develop a quality reference framework for the adoption, the design, the delivery and the evaluation of MOOCs in order to empower MOOC providers for the benefit of the learners.

Projects (completed)

  • Ancient cities
    The project aims at producing the MOOC Discovering Greek & Roman Cities intended for a broad audience and a digital learning module for students of higher education institutions. The Faculty of Educational Sciences contributes its expertise on educational technology to develop the MOOC and the online module.
  • European Multiple MOOC Aggregator (EMMA)
  • MOOCKnowledge
    MOOCKnowledge, designed and funded by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) offers MOOC providers a (FREE!) set of standard customisable surveys to gain insights into the expectations and experience of their learners, and a tool for analysing the MOOC design. In return, we aggregate the data across MOOCs and providers to develop a shared understanding of the MOOC phenomena and the factors that shape effective MOOCs.
  • SCORE2020
    Support Centres for Open education and MOOCS in different Regions of Europe 2020 (SCORE2020, 2014-2016) builds a European consortium of regional expertise centres on open education and MOOCs with the support of the European platform of OpenupEd experts.
  • Open Discovery Space
    Supports teachers in creating unique teaching resources, share them within communities of interest and grow in their professional life.
  • Inspiring Science Education
    Inspiring Science Education is all about providing the tools to make science education more challenging, more playful and above all more imaginative and inspiring for today’s students, the citizens of tomorrow’s world.


In de spotlight