MOOCs: Fresh from the DLA conference

I just got back from the Distance Learning Administration (DLA) conference and let me tell you… it was fantastic. Hosted at the historic Jekyll island club hotel, this conference attracts eLearning administrators, faculty, staff (including instructional designers, technologists, and librarians) from many educational institutions around the nation. One of the topics discussed in multiple presentations was massive online open courses or MOOCs for short.

On a side note, just prior to moving to GRU, I had a very rewarding experience as the project manager, subject matter expert, and instructional designer for ELRN 100: SCAD eLearning Experience, an open course that won the OLC best in track award and the CASE Southwest District III award of excellence in 2014. Some day I hope somebody will knock on my office door and say “I have a great idea for a MOOC and I need your help designing it!”

Back to the conference, the two institutions that came to the DLA conference to speak about their MOOCs were Kennesaw State University and Concordia University.

Dr. Jim Cope, executive Director of the Distance Learning Center, talked about Kennesaw’s two MOOCs: K-12 Blended & Online Learning as well as Cybersecurity and Its Ten Domains. The first MOOC was created in partnership with the Online Learning Consortium and runs in 8-week blocks. Boasting high-budget videos, this course can be taken in tiers: just for learning, for Coursera credit and professional teacher credentialing in Georgia (free PLUs provided), or as a pathway to credit at this particular institution when you sign up for their graduate education degrees or certificates. Facilitators are available to provide feedback to those interested in completing the assignments, which, in my opinion, is the most essential element of quality in an open course.

Offered on a rolling basis, the second MOOC has attracted international attention with its timely topic of security in the online environment. This “learning product”, as Kennesaw State University calls it, offers digital certificates and optional CEUs and/or credit opportunity toward their B.B.A. degree. Overall, this institution uses MOOCs to put out its brand, recruit (and generate revenue from free courses!), innovate in education, and provide an opportunity for research.

The DLA conference keynote speaker, Dr. Bernard Bull, shared info about the Understanding Cheating MOOC offered by Concordia University. This course also attracted national attention when the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece titled MOOC Teaches How to Cheat in Online Courses, With Eye to Prevention. This course uses badges to reward completion of each module and is pioneering the idea of experience points rather than credit hours (under the premise that employers are more keen on a new hire’s experience/abilities than his or her degree). A fun exercise in this course is the cheating confessional, where everyone is invited to share anonymous 1st or 2nd hand stories of cheating online. I can’t think of a more relevant and motivating way to learn about cyber ethics – can you?

Both institutions tried finding industry leaders to provide their perspective on the subject matter and the results are great. I am thoroughly impressed with both institution’s offerings and am leisurely browsing through their contents, getting inspired in my own design. A final thought to ponder on: MOOCs are open educational resources and anything provided in such courses is free to use. Well, what are you waiting for? Check out these MOOCs for yourself and please come back to share your thoughts!

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