Open Education: a vision by Delft/QN PI Anton Akhmerov


(By: TUDelft/online education)
Anton Akhmerov is an assistant professor in the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience of Delft University of Technology. Much of what he does is covered in his online course “Topology in condensed matter”. Anton shares the materials used in his MOOC under a Creative Commons Sharealike License via This means that reuse is allowed even for profit, but any modification must keep the same license. Open online education provides Anton with a lot of benefits and he is happy to share his clear vision on this with us.

What does Open Education mean to you?

Anton: “Open access is a win-win strategy to me. If others find and use your educational materials, you get a lot more exposure than if you keep the content to yourself. More exposure equals more chances on feedback on your contents and a higher chance for quality increase. By sharing your course materials with a global audience you can accommodate others to make your contents even better.”

Anton has no problems with giving access to his materials whatsoever: “Sharing course materials does not equal giving away education. Ultimately studying at a university or taking a course is much more than just following course materials. A professor also guides the students, brings them in contact with ongoing research, and provides high quality feedback. These elements are of high value and cannot be copied.”

What would you recommend to fellow teachers?
Anton hopes he gets his fellow teachers aboard. He is happy to share some recommendations with his colleagues: “First of all, publish all your course materials openly and share it with the world. Publish-publish-publish! If somebody reuses what you made for one class, that means your effort was more useful than you had originally planned. By sharing your course materials with a global audience you can accommodate others to make your contents even better. Don’t forget to specify the license: if you don’t, others are actually legally allowed to reuse the materials. If you have a choice of format, go with something that others can modify, so try to avoid pdfs or scanned handwritten texts. Don’t make your video one hour long, make several that only take 5 minutes. Finally, your work doesn’t have to be perfect, and even if someone spots and fixes a typo you are already at a win.”

Anton claims another important benefit to openness: efficiency. “Research is my main activity. This means I want the time spent on education to be spent with the most use. If it’s somehow possible to increase the efficiency, that’s great. If you ever find that you can use high quality materials that already exist – go for it. You are saved from spending your precious time on repeating what was done before you.”

What do you want to achieve?
Asking about his ambitions Anton is very clear: “In research we are able to do so much because we “stand on the shoulders of giants”: we can reuse the work done before us and build upon it. I hope that we, as a community, learn to use the same principle also in spreading knowledge. I want the educational material on every topic to become a community effort instead of work done in isolation. I hope that eventually at some time I could make a new course curriculum based on content from others. It allows for better transmission of expertise.”

More information
Online course Topology in Condensed Matter: Tying Quantum Knots
Open Course Ware