One MOOC Down, Hundreds More to Choose From…
I recently completed my first MOOC course through Coursera.org. Coursera is an education company that partners with top universities and organizations around the world to offer courses online for anyone to take for free. The MOOC that I completed was through University of Wisconsin-Madison titled Video Games and Learning. A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. Right now most courses are free, although in the future providers like Coursera will need to figure out how to make a profit to pay investors who have poured millions of dollars into their platform.
One way that they have begun to bring in revenue is through their Signature Track. This is where participants in some courses can choose to pay a fee (usually under $100/course) to verify their identity and that they alone completed the requirements to receive a verified certificate of completion. Coursera advertises that these Signature Track Certificates can be leveraged on a resume. People can still take the course for free and receive a certificate of completion but in the future as the popularity and possible acceptance of this form of education becomes mainstream in the business world the verified certificate could hold more weight. Currently 144 of the 539 courses offered on Coursera offer a Signature Track option.
Some believe that MOOCs threaten traditional classes/university business model and some Institutions have backed off from developing them because of this. Others believe that MOOCs will eventually evolve into something called HARVARDS (Highly Accessible (and Rigorous), Very Affordable (and Recognised) Degrees). Wherever the evolution of MOOCs take us it will be an interesting ride that for now has opened the doors to top flight education to anyone in the world with internet access.
Correspondence Courses Have Come a Long Way…
My full circle epiphany while taking this course was the realization that the Russian Correspondence Course that I took in the early 90’s in High School was also through University of Wisconsin. The major difference was that I had to mail my homework in and wait for about a month to get a grade and comments on my papers back from my professor. The feedback through this MOOC was provided mainly from the thousands of other students on the discussion boards, there are simply too many students for the professors to interact with individually. Each week the professors did provide a video overview of the previous week giving everyone a big picture of overall student work and what they had learned from us which I thought was an interesting aspect of the course.
There is thought about the potential that MOOCs could play at the high school level, Justin Tarte discusses how MOOCs could fulfill need in his blog post What’s a MOOC & what do they mean for Education. Not only could students take MOOC courses for topics that their school doesn’t offer but perhaps could be used for students in need of credit retrieval as well. Students could self select appropriate courses within a needed subject. When students select their own classes engagement, interest, and performance increase.
Truly World Wide Participation…
Of the four MOOC courses that UW-Madison currently offers only one quarter (23%) of participants are from the United States. An additional quarter of participants live in Brazil, India, United Kingdom, Spain, or Canada. Overall, there are 19 different countries that have 100 or more participants.
According to Katyjordan.com enrollment has reached up to 230,000 students but 20,000 students enrolled is a typical MOOC size. Completion rates can approach 40% but most MOOCs have completion rates of less than 13%. That is still about 260 students on average from 20,000 who sign up.
The professors in my course, Constance Steinkuelhler & Kurt Squire, informed the class that after week three of the roughly 37,000 students who had signed up for the course about 9,000 were still active. With this many active participants the discussion boards were very active throughout the course, I found it interesting to see a teenager from India discussing the merits of video game design and learning with an edtech professional from England. While the actual “homework” was fairly simple it was interesting and I believe that what you get out of these classes is what you put into the class.
Class Takeaway: Good Teaching Parallels Good Game Design…
I took the class because I am interested in the topic and the potential that game based education has on student learning and literacy rates, especially among teen boys who struggle more than female students with literacy which has a strong correlation to drop out rates. Professor James Paul Gee from Arizona State University was a constant presents in the video lectures each week discussing his 13 Principles of Game-based Learning. In closing Gee said “Teaching is designing and resourcing learning for other people. Teachers are designers of learning as are game designers.” It takes a lot of skill and training to design a good education game that captures the imagination, builds skill in the players, and leads to gains in student learning.
- Coursera Eyes Corporate Education Market (blackchristiannews.com)
- Coursera Adds Another $20M To Its Already Massive Series B (techcrunch.com)
- Coursera founder Ng counters MOOC criticism, aims for corporate education market (bizjournals.com)
- Who Are They? New Study Reports on MOOC Participants (infodocket.com)
- MOOCs Are Reaching Only Privileged Learners, Survey Finds (chronicle.com)
- Coursera teams up State Department on series of MOOC-based ‘learning hubs’ around the world (engadget.com)
- MOOC Evaluation: Beyond the Certificate of Completion (sloanconsortium.org)