UPVx started as Universitat Politècnica de València’s foray into the world of MOOCs. They ran an independent instance of the Open edX platform, which they used to share their courses with students and the world.

UPVx is inspiring in its success. A total of 95,963 students from more than 100 countries have enrolled in courses. Of these learners, more than 12,000 have completed their course, which makes an impressive certification rate of 13.29%.

Screenshot of the UPVx main page

Since launching UPVx, UPV has joined edX and is now a partner, hosting courses on edX.org. They continue to run UPVx, creating specialized content for their students and local populations in Spain. They use UPVx to test courses that are potential MOOCs, taking the best courses with the widest appeal to edX.org.

We asked Nacho Despujol, the MOOC Platform Coordinator at UPV, some questions about UPVx, what they’ve done, and where they’re going.

Screenshot of a video playing on the UPVx main page.

UPVx on Online Education

We want our students to have access to the best education during their stay at Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and afterwards, as lifelong learners, and MOOCs are a wonderful tool to offer this kind of education.

As a public university we are also concerned with making the world better through education, and MOOCs are the perfect tool to give access to quality education to anyone that wants to learn.

We decided to start making MOOCs because we had been involved in the Open Course Ware movement and in the development of digital video content to support teaching processes for several years. We developed Polimedia, a system to record HD videos we call “learning objects,” using cheap audiovisual studios in a fast and simple way. We also developed “Docencia en Red,” a project that educates and supports teachers in creating digital learning content. When MOOCs arrived we had the experience, the trained teachers, and the technological tools to start using this wonderful tool.

What is UPVx?

UPVx was created as the MOOC platform of UPV, with the aim of being a global platform. After UPV joined edX, UPVx has become the test-bed for our MOOCs before we launch them on edX. All UPV MOOCs are first presented on UPVx. We also use UPVx to host MOOCs for localized audiences (Valencian language courses, for example) and for SPOCs and other small courses made to serve the university community (for example, the physics, math, and chemistry courses for first year students). As a result, we use UPVx to serve students and society in general.

Our courses are predominately in Spanish. We have made seven versions each of 34 different courses, totaling 81 course runs since January 2013. We originally used Google Course Builder to create courses, but later switched to an Open edX instance before we joined edX. We run satisfaction surveys at the end of a course. These courses average 8 out of 10 points.

After several years of running the “Docencia en Red” program, the University has trained 1,400 teachers in the recording of educational videos and the use of new technologies, so we are able to run the MOOC initiative with a small team: one platform coordinator, one developer, one project manager, and a team of four teaching assistants to run both the edx.org and UPVx courses. This small team does almost everything, from platform upgrades and management, to teacher support in the development of the courses, forum moderation, and day to day platform support, both in edx.org and UPVx. We also get the help of other UPV senior system analysts for big platform changes in UPVx.

Video recording for MOOCs shares the same infrastructure developed with Polimedia for all of UPV’s video projects. UPV has recorded more than 12,000 video learning objects with Polimedia.

UPVx is also used to make and test new features and enhancements for the Open edX platform. We develop the modules and modifications, test them, and later launch pull requests to incorporate them into the main Open edX repository.

Who are your learners?

As a large MOOC platform, we are mostly reaching people who already hold university degrees, helping them improve their education. We believe that in the future we will be able to reach under-served communities who have difficult accessing quality education, and that will make a real difference for them.

We have received a lot of messages from people grateful about what they learned with our courses, but one of the most rewarding was the case of Jorge Antonio. He wrote a message on the upvx.es Facebook page telling us that he had just received a 20% salary raise thanks to the course UPVx “Introduction to Project Management.”

Screen shot from the UPVx facebook page.

Where is UPVx going?

We are going to continue hosting each of our new MOOCs on UPVx before releasing them on edx.org–and there are a lot to come. We have set the goal to create 100 new MOOCs over the next two years.

We will also continue to experiment with technical projects that will be shared with the Open edX community. We are interested in internationalization and multilingual support for courses, where a course can be followed in different languages at the same time (with the content, problems, and videos changing depending on the selected language on the platform).

Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge for their work or participation?

The success of this project is rooted in the passion and commitment of the people involved in it, from the Vice-rector of ITC Technologies, Vicent Botti, the Information Systems and Communications Area director Jaime Busquets and the Head of Multimedia Services Carlos Turro, to all the teaching assistants, the ones we have now and the ones that have joined and left the project to continue with their studies. I would also like to mention Leo Salom, our developer, Nacho Piqueras, our project manager, and, of course, the 60 faculty members that have participated in the development of the courses.

About UPV

The Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) is a medium sized university, founded in 1971 in Valencia, the third biggest city of Spain. It is located in eastern Spain on the Mediterranean coast.

UPV is a school of arts and sciences, with a strong emphasis on technical programs. It has more than 37,000 students enrolled in 35 bachelor’s programs, 58 master’s programs and 30 PhD programs of Engineering, Architecture, Computer Science, Business Administration, and Fine Arts. We have 14 schools spread across three campuses, and around 2,400 faculty members. Many of the faculty are also involved in research and technology transfer through 15 university institutes and 25 research centers.

UPV is highly committed to innovation, and has a specific subcampus called the Polytechnic City of Innovation. In the Polytechnic City of Innovation, 1,600 scientists and 400 support staff work on innovation ventures including the European High Power Radiofrequency Lab of the European Space Agency, an immersive neuro-technology lab, and a germ-plasm bank, among others.

The UPV has partnerships with institutions in 50 different countries. Each year, approximately 1,600 students graduate, with another 2,000 matriculating into the university.

According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, UPV is in the group of the 301-400 best universities of the world. It is also one of the Top 100 universities in the Times Higher Education Under 50 rankings.