MOOCs, outreach, and program growth

I read an interesting article today on NPREd about free online courses (MOOCs) and what was learned when the data generated by 1.7 million online students in EdX. Although I read the report earlier and was already familiar with the findings, I was particularly struck by what some people wrote in the comments:


In many ways, these comments align with some of my own experiences in creating a prototype MOOC course to teach business German on the Canvas. I did find some interesting patters of student behavior in the MOOC. The course, which consists of one prototype module, currently has 58 students from around the world enrolled in it. These students have on average spent 1:36:45 with the instruction provided by the module. Of the 58 students enrolled in the course, 15 students (25.86%) are what could be considered “active” course users who are in varying stages of competing the module exercises with an average grade of 86.79%, roughly a “B”. These active users spent an average of 1:53:11 interacting with the module.

More interesting, however, was what was happening on my end. To create the course, I needed to go outside of my comfort zone, make new connections to industry, try to find allies in both business and in secondary education, rethink what I was doing in the classroom, and reevaluate what skills I was teaching and how they would potentially transfer to work environments after graduation. The person commenting above is right, I think, in the sense that MOOCs have the potential to change higher education, but perhaps not in the manner that we currently think or anticipate. By realizing that the end user of a MOOC can potentially be in any number of real-world contexts, we as educators will be led to think about how what we teach in the ivory tower can find relevance in these contexts. I see transformative opportunities in continuing education, alumni education, and collaborative opportunities in primary and secondary education, This, I think, will be immensely useful for us professionally in terms of growth, outreach, and demonstrating relevancy.

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