What you can learn from a MOOC


Online education is for instructors, too.

I would estimate that 80% of the best things I did as a classroom teacher were “borrowed” from somebody else.  They came from books, online resources, workshops…    Very few ideas were straight out of my head.  I did invent “Periodic Table Battleship” while in the shower one morning, pondering how to make Electron Configurations a less boring topic.  I was really pleased with myself but later found online that I wasn’t the first to think of this.  Ego-bummer.

The growing presence of MOOCs, (Massive Open Online Courses) on the web has opened a new, high-quality resource to you.  A MOOC is a free course, completely online, usually around 6 weeks long.  They are increasingly being offered by “traditional” institutions like Stanford, MIT,  Ohio State…   The MOOC movement is about making their content public for the world, and a MOOC is a great place for you to get ideas of what you would like to do in your own courses.  This is especially true if you want to increase the online content of your course but have no idea what that would look like.  What better way to learn what an online course can do than to take one?  The experience of being an online student will make you aware of the types of things you should and shouldn’t do in your own course.

By taking a MOOC in your own content, you will find new materials, new resources, new ways of looking at the same tasks, and new strategies that you never would have thought of on your own.  The open format of a MOOC means that you can choose how much time you want to devote to the course, although one benefit of a MOOC is the high level of resource-sharing, and the more effort you put into the course, the more reward you will get out of it.

A good place to start looking into this is at https://www.coursera.org/ .   Coursera is the host of almost 200 MOOCs, from 33 universities worldwide.  Go to their site, look through  their list of courses, and see what they have to offer you.   They even tell you what  the expected time commitment is for each course, so you know what you’re getting into.  I’m starting a course on  creating Andriod apps soon, and I might take  The Science of Gastronomy from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.  Mmm… gluten formation and protein denaturing.

Another source is from the Canvas Network from Instracture.  The have a smaller offering, but a wide variety, and you get a peek at their Blackboard-rivaling LMS.

For the Steve Jobs fans out there, look at iTunesU on the App Store.  Browse the free “courses” — bundles of resources, both text and video, posted by universities and organizations world-wide.

For some stats on taking and teaching MOOCs…

This infographic comes from onlinecollegecourses.com.

mooc statistics


3 thoughts on “What you can learn from a MOOC

  1. As an elementary educator, I definitely “borrow” ideas from others, either colleagues at school or ideas found online. Why reinvent the wheel? There are great ideas out there that I can learn from and tweak as needed for my classroom to fit the needs of my students and my own teaching style.

    In addition to teaching, I’m working on my master’s in instructional design and technology. I’ve run across the term MOOCs in the past few weeks, but wasn’t familiar with the term. Your entry on MOOCs was helpful in building my basic understanding. Also, thanks for sharing information about Coursera as a source for MOOCs. As I learn more about this field, the more I can expose myself to different types of online learning the better.

    My first exposure to online learning occurred this past summer through my high school son. In order to fit in more science and math classes during the regular school year, he opted to take health and P.E. online over the summer. As you say, taking an online course makes you aware as an instructor of what works and doesn’t work. In my son’s case, I noticed that many of the assignments just seemed to be “busy work” to get a grade; there was no value added to the learning. (i.e. Write an acrostic poem about cancer.) My other observation was when my son completed the state required online drug and alcohol awareness program during his health class. This state designed program was a PowerPoint with no graphics, no narration, and text-filled slides. Students were required to spend a minimum of 45 minutes on the PowerPoint. It had about 12 slides and took all of 5-8 minutes to read. Even without a degree in instructional design, I saw many opportunities to make this program more engaging and meaningful.

    As I began my master’s program this fall, which is also online, I’ve found the combination of video programs, online reading, textbook reading, and discussion groups to be helpful. One aspect I already love about online learning is the flexibility to manage my own time!

  2. Melissa, thanks for the comments. I really like the idea of using online courses to enhance traditional K-12 offerings. I went to a small high school that didn’t even offer physics, because there was just one science teacher whose schedule was full with all of the other courses that were required. (Physics wasn’t required at that time, just low-level physical science.)
    I just heard about another source for free online courses from many universities, at http://canvas.net. One of them is a pre-engineering course that I would have loved to take as an elective in high school.

  3. Pingback: What I’m learning from Harvard… « Instructional Design @ ESU

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