With high unemployment due to coronavirus and fewer summer jobs available to students than normal, Iceland’s Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture provided funding to the University of Iceland to host online summer courses. The goal is to give current students as well as recent graduates from upper secondary schools or those who want to bridge a skills gap, make a career change, or better position themselves on the job market an opportunity to productively use their summer.
The challenge for the University of Iceland, however, was to figure out how it could provide a diverse selection of online summer courses for the varied target groups with a limited time frame before summer courses would begin.
“Icelandic students are a large and diverse group, but it is their education and achievements that lay the foundation for the future prosperity of our society," said Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Education and Culture
To achieve its goal of a diverse online learning catalog available to students by summer, the University of Iceland turned to edX. Through Online Campus, the University of Iceland had access to more than 3000+ online courses from top universities and leading companies around the world. Courses on edX are designed to be modular, meaning higher education institutions can use a compilation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to deliver modular credentials and degrees, or to build out a specific course curriculum. For University of Iceland, this meant that they could build custom programs to suit the needs of its diverse audience.
For example, the university created a new faculty-facilitated program using modular edX content, called “Leading change: Gamification, storytelling and superheroes to the rescue.” The program leveraged edX content for the majority of the course, such as lectures, assignments, and assessments from four different edX courses, including climate change education, storytelling for social change, and more. Faculty from the university then created a final graded assignment for students to complete based on the modular content used within the program, giving students a flexible, hybrid learning opportunity.
The development of new, hybrid approaches to teaching and learning using edX online content allowed the university to quickly pivot to offer learning opportunities of value to students in a totally remote environment. At the same time, it also supported flexible levels of faculty course or program facilitation. By having access to a flexible, online learning platform, the university was able to deliver on its goal of a wide variety of courses to keep students progressing and engaged this summer.
The university was also able to launch the online learning programs quickly and seamlessly by connecting edX to its Student Management System (SMS). Through the SMS, edX course information is automatically visible to students in the course syllabus, and they can participate in courses as verified learners and receive certificates of completion along the way. Faculty will also be able to use edX platform tools to track student progress and intervene as needed.
Looking beyond summer, the university plans to continue its partnership with edX and continue to make its courses available for future semesters.
“Our use of edX courses for blended learning with our on-campus students has been so successful that we are piloting a summer initiative offering a selection of edX courses for academic credit," Alfreðsdóttir said.