No doubt you’ve seen several stories lately in the news about what some people are calling MOOCs–Massive Online Open Classes–with 160,000 or so students in online open courseware classes being offered by Universities such as Stanford, Harvard, MIT, through some commercial spin-off companies. (See below.). The purpose and the business model of the massive courses continue to be unclear. However, the increased profile of these classes and the new enterprises involved in their development raises questions about what it means to Oregon State?

Dave King
Dave King, Associate Provost Outreach and Engagement

There are a couple of issues off the top that may impact OSU.

First, at OSU we are coming at the open courseware/MOOC’s environment a little differently. As opposed to massive enrollment classes, we are planning the development of “open learning modules” focusing on individual learning objectives. Our goal with the open module program will be to provide students and learners with the ability to draw from a repository of online learning modules to create individualized learning opportunities, rather than a one-size-fits-all 1,000-plus student course. The module program will offer value to our current students, to non-credit programs, to K12 students and even international programs.

At OSU our competitive advantage is the development and delivery of high quality online credit courses designed to help students be successful.  Through Ecampus, we are continuing to focus on degree-completion with new online courses and programs for students seeking an OSU degree online or at a distance.

You will hear much more about our new open module development program in the near future. But, suffice to say now; this is how we’re approaching the expanding open courseware market.

Second, these massive courses offer significant opportunities to test analytics of the learning process and social interaction tools quickly with large samples. The developers of some of the MOOCs have said they plan to take advantage of the opportunity to test analytics and we at OSU will watch closely and see what we can learn.  Embedding analytics in our online and blended courses has the potential of helping improve student success significantly.

In the meantime, here are some of the latest articles on these topics in case you’ve missed any of them.

MIT and Harvard announce edX: Two of the world’s most prestigious universities recently formed a partnership that will make their classes available for free online as a way to “improve education for everyone.” MIT president Susan Hockfield says the online venture will help improve on-campus education, too.

Universities reshaping education on the web: The New York Times takes a close look this week at the rapid rise of Coursera, the online platform for free, open university courses that is altering the landscape of higher education. Says Georgia Tech’s Richard DeMillo: “The potential upside for this experiment is so big that it’s hard for me to imagine any large research university that wouldn’t want to be involved.”

After leadership crisis fueled by distance-ed debate, UVa will put free classes online: The University of Virginia, once fearful that it would be left in the dust of other schools experimenting with open online courses, this week teamed up with Coursera – ensuring that it will instead be at the forefront of the MOOC experimentation.

A conversation with Bill Gates about the future of higher education, Part I and Part II: The technological innovator and billionaire philanthropist opens up about his affinity for online learning; the need for delivering education in hybrid formats; why American universities should use a business-style approach to improve completion rates and remain relevant; and how technology can help reinvent higher education.

And finally, here’s a link to the OPB Think Out Loud show from last week on the topic.

– Dave

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