[Editors' note: A delegation led by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education recently visited Harvard University and other American higher education institutions to explore the ways their respective leaders are confronting change in an increasingly connected, globally competitive landscape. A particular emphasis was on the use of technology and online learning.]
Over the past several decades, the Danish Government has invested significant resources to support education.
As a result, we have seen an increase in the number of students who participate in our higher education system.
Our ultimate goal is to have 95 percent of Denmark’s students experience some form of higher education, and have 25 percent of those ultimately obtain a university-level degree.
Striking these milestones is not merely about achieving particular metrics. Such ambitions are also directed more broadly at ensuring the continued quality and relevance of higher education in Denmark.
Driven by this dual focus, we are exploring ways that will allow us to achieve qualitative improvements while also embracing recent innovations that are reshaping how universities around the world teach and reach students.
To do so we set out on a mission to the United States to learn about the potential benefits (and potential pitfalls) of online learning.
Our five days of visiting some of the leading players in online learning, both on the East and West coasts, was inspiring---and further fueled the debate we have been and are having in Denmark about how to move forward.
So what did we take away from our trip?
First, there is great diversity in how different learning platforms are used as well as a striking variety in terms of institutional strategies and approaches to develop custom made solutions---often dependent on subject and didactical priorities.
Second, the possibility for tailored education for individual students with different needs as well as the possibility for extensive evaluations of learning-outcomes to help refine courses has the potential to support ongoing improvements in higher education.
Finally, digital tools for learning offer both a radically new way of distributing education and can lead to rethinking pedagogical as well as didactical approaches on campus. Moreover, creating online courses is far more complex than simply converting in-class courses to videos, and takes continuous testing and refining to achieve the fullest potential benefits.
I have indeed been inspired to invest in online learning and tools---primarily as a mechanism to ensure continued improvement.
The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Research is thus working on a strategy for implementing online learning in Denmark, all directed at meeting our great ambition to expand access to our students, ensure the highest quality learning content, and remain relevant in our globally connected world.
Mrs. Sofie Carsten Nielsen is the Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science for Denmark.