Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Massive Open Online Courses: Massive Threat or Open Invitation? Part 2 of 2

This 2-part blog feature comes from Guest Blogger, Michael J. Badolato, Ed.D., Dean of Academic Technology and was originally featured in NSCC Technology Across the Curriculum's annual publication:  Mousetales.  Part 1 of this article can be found here.

In the course of this academic year, two Massachusetts state community colleges have partnered with edX in the delivery of an introductory computer science course on their respective campuses. Mass Bay and Bunker Hill each have integrated edX’s content within different instructional designs. Mass Bay has developed a hybrid, or blended, design incorporating the MOOC as the online component complementing weekly in-class meetings to meet the course’s total credit-hour requirement. Bunker Hill’s rendition is essentially a ‘flipped classroom’ model where the lecture provided by the MOOC is positioned as the assignment component along with a full number of in-class meetings reserved for project-based activities, collaboration and discussion. While MIT will recognize participation with a certificate of completion, course credit will be awarded through the participating community colleges.  The courses are led by the local community college professors while the MOOC portion of the course is a video lecture offering no real interaction with the MIT lecturer. In effect, both schools implement the MOOC as a large-scale reusable learning object in the service of their individual learning outcomes.

What is important to remember about this partnership is that while MIT and Harvard have elite brand recognition, they are relative novices in the world of online learning. Community colleges have the benefit of years of experience in online course design and in accommodating students diverse in their backgrounds and educational goals. Where the community colleges gain yet another strategy in their arsenal, Harvard and MIT gain valuable partners who can share their extensive knowledge of creating challenging learning experiences that benefit students of all levels.

To gain a balanced perspective on MOOCS, it is helpful to view them within the context of an emerging academic infrastructure where both content and process is less centralized and more distributed. This infrastructure embraces sources of content beyond our local development, includes individuals outside of our immediate locale, blends the physical and virtual, and rebalances the teacher-student-peer relationship towards independent learning and collaboration. Aside from MOOCs and open content, a working example can be found in our own Math Redesign Project, which is a flexible convergence model utilizing third-party content within a fixed learning environment facilitated by qualified, experienced faculty.  We have before us a greater continuum of possibilities that will continue to include us and the value we provide, yet challenge us to collaborate and literally think outside the boxes that are our texts, curriculum, classrooms, desks, buildings, and servers.  As the continuum expands, we will in-turn find ourselves moving beyond the writing of singular courses toward strategically building complete learning experiences.  The possibilities have never been greater.

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Have you taken a MOOC?  What are some of your experiences with MOOCs?