As the EGSH we organise a wide range of courses for our PhD candidates. However, for practical reasons, PhD candidates are not always able to attend our courses. Teaching obligations, fieldwork abroad and other activities and circumstances might make it difficult for PhD candidates to attend courses at specific times and locations.
For this reason, we have aimed to make our offer of courses more flexible by offering video lectures online. These videos are placed on Coursera.org in the form of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Thus far, we developed two MOOCs about two innovative methods: Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Multilevel Modelling (MLM). The MOOC on QCA was launched beginning 2019 and can be accessed here: https://www.coursera.org/learn/qualitative-comparative-analysis. The MOOC on MLM is expected to start anytime soon.
The video lectures for the MOOCs can be attended by students autonomously. Learners can do exercises and test their knowledge by themselves with the help of self-assessment tools and in contact with an online community of learners on Coursera.org. A lecturer and class room activities are not required. This is why and how this format makes our education more flexible: our PhD students can attend the MOOCs by watching video lectures and doing exercises online from anywhere in the world at any time convenient for them.
In addition, we use the video lectures as a way to prepare PhD candidates who do have the possibility to attend our regular courses offline about QCA and MLM. These students are first asked to watch the video lectures online, and subsequently to attend class meetings in which they can receive further explanation, ask questions, engage in discussions and reflections with each other, and do hands-on exercises. By watching the videos at home beforehand, students can begin class meetings at a higher entry level, have more interactive and fun sessions, and accomplish more ambitious learning objectives. This approach is generally referred to as “blended learning” or “flipped classroom”.
Finally, next to helping our PhD candidates, we hope that our MOOCs can benefit learners worldwide. Making knowledge and learning more widely accessible has indeed been envisaged as the great potential of MOOCs and we hope we can realise that potential as much as is possible.