ETH Zurich's weekly web journal - auf deutsch
ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH - Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Section: Campus Life
deutsche Version english Version
Print-Version Drucken

Published: 02.05.2007, 06:00
Modified: 07.05.2007, 17:19
E-learning at ETH Zurich
On-line educational offerings

MIT is to put its entire curriculum on the Internet by the end of 2007. The news was welcome at ETH Zurich where the ETH World project for on-line learning is already well underway. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on-line offer is free of charge and available to all. ETH Zurich sees it as a complement to its own Information and Communications Technology (ICT) initiative that was begun in 2004.

Renata Cosby

The MIT initiative, OpenCourseWare, makes available the university’s curriculum as a source of reference material in a unified, organized and systematic manner. Course lectures, and even lecturers’ notes are available on-line. What OpenCourseWare does not do, however, is to address an e-learning strategy or its implementation.

ICT applied to e-learning

This is where the ETH World project comes to the fore. Headed by Bernhard Plattner, Professor of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (D-ITET), this five-year initiative has developed information and communications technologies (ICT) for ETH Zurich on-line learning. The ETH World project was completed in 2005 when the instruments for instruction were identified, developed and implemented. ETH Zurich stands ready to roll out its ICT offer, picking up in fact where the MIT initiative leaves off.

Professor Plattner says “E-learning means that teaching is augmented with good use of information and communication technology. Presentation of the material is interactive, bringing to the student more than just an alternative form of reading material. For instance, with e-learning a student can conduct a simulation - meaning he would enter his own suppositions into an interactive simulation of the material taught in class. He can thus see what would happen ‘if’. It is a test of whether the information is being understood, not just retained. E-learning is active and interactive learning. We do not consider replacing a book by a pdf to be an act of learning.”

Openness as a consequence

The major benefit of MIT’s OpenCourseWare may well be that it strips away much of the secrecy that often surrounds a university’s curriculum. It should enable universities to say that the ‘the secret is not in the material, but in how we teach it. We are what make the difference.’ ETH Zurich Professor Brad Nelson, head of the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering (D-MAVT), agrees.


E-learning strongly supports students' efforts to learn and understand their subjects. large

He says that OpenCourseWare “is a great tool for enhancing the reputation of the university while continuing to provide one of their main services, which is education.”

Incentives in-hand

That some of its curriculum was already available on-line in some parts of the university is what led ETH Zurich to the decision to make e-learning available as well. However, there are stumbling blocks to its implementation. “It’s a lot of work” Professor Plattner explains. “If time is properly allocated, twenty percent of a professor’s time is spent teaching, and eighty percent in research. But if a professor wants to create material appropriate for self-study, e-learning, then much more time must be invested in teaching. And that’s a problem.”

Fortunately, ETH Zurich has offered incentives for going on-line. Professors who want to adapt their course material, making it e-learning ready, can submit proposals. To date, approved proposals have received financing of between 100'000 to 300'000 Swiss francs. But because the schemes have taken a long time in development (proposal creation itself is a major undertaking for professors), the guidelines have been changed. Now approved projects must be developed within a year or less. Financing also has been reduced from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands of Swiss francs. The typical grant will be about fifteen thousand Swiss francs.

And there is still remains the problem of the professors’ time: to ease the load, ETH Zurich has embedded e-learning specialists in various departments. It is the task of the specialists to motivate and help professors and lecturers to produce more e-learning appropriate material. With the specialists, “we are trying to sustain creation of e-learning material” Professor Plattner says. But for those who feel that ICT and OpenCourseWare will downgrade professors to being back-seat drivers, Bernhard Plattner clearly states that “neither e-learning nor OpenCourseWare will ever replace teaching. Nor are they meant to.”

You can write a feedback to this article or read the existing comments.

!!! Dieses Dokument stammt aus dem ETH Web-Archiv und wird nicht mehr gepflegt !!!
!!! This document is stored in the ETH Web archive and is no longer maintained !!!