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The true impact of MOOCs: Penn State University assesses their MOOC experience

by / / Blog, Higher Education, Massive Online Open Courses, MOOC

The Penn State University’s five MOOCs offered through Coursera, attracted more than 300,000 sign-ups, a number that surprised the MOOCs faculty. Students weren’t the only ones getting something out of these MOOCs, the professors gained valuable insights from the MOOC teaching experience. The students’ increased and unprecedented engagement showed that the free online learning model could is a paradigm shift forever changing education’s future capacities and applications.

Penn State University collaborated with Coursera to offer courses such as Creativity, Innovation and Change, Maps and the Geospatial Revolution and, Art: Concepts & Techniques. The last two courses, had 48,000 and 70,000 enrolled students respectively. The MOOC faculty was impressed by the level of engagement, collaboration, and interaction of the virtual students. The professors’ experience with MOOC teaching sheds light as to the ways this new education model can improve campus-based teaching and drive forward innovative learning.

Interaction – Despite the virtual aspect of teaching, students were eager to interact with each other, discuss issues, find solutions and create a new discourse around their courses. The use of forums, online study groups and other online platforms could work as well in conventional teaching.

Student-centered – Even though a MOOC has by definition multiple times bigger attendance, this didn’t put off students. They would take initiatives to form their own study groups, both virtual and conventional, emphasizing how significant interaction is to learning. The sheer number of students didn’t impede communication and discussions, but rather offer a wider platform for more students to participate in the discourse.

Self-responsibility – One aspect of MOOC is that it’s distinctly self-directed; the faculty is not hand-holding the student. It’s the learner’s responsibility to attend classes, complete project and overall do well. What these MOOCs showed is that this is a quality individuals possess but somehow the conventional teaching model doesn’t let thrive.

Technology as a Facilitator– Integrate social media for better, instant interaction in campus-based learning is a concept that drives forward education and increases student interaction. Social media and other technologies are both a medium and a tool for letting students have a say on their learning; request information, start discussions, take initiatives for projects and innovative knowledge implementation.

As more universities offer MOOCs and educators collect useful information on their potential and wider applications, it’s expected that education will rapidly advance becoming a truly efficient, human-centric learning model offering purposeful and relevant knowledge to all.


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