MOOCs dominate faculty discussion

Tim Chamillard

Tim Chamillard

Tim Chamillard, associate professor, College of Engineering and Applied Science, is ready to take the plunge into the latest trend sweeping higher education, Massive Open Online Courses or, MOOCs, for short.

Chamillard will be the first UCCS faculty member to offer a course without tuition or traditional enrollment processes. He plans to offer the course this fall and is excited about the potential, sharing his enthusiasm and concerns with faculty and staff who attended a May 1 forum in the University Center.

“I want to talk about attrition,” Chamillard said. “You start off with 160,000 and only 10 percent of them finish. So that’s only 16,000 people who learn new stuff that otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. That’s bigger than any classroom.”

Chamillard’s course in beginning game programming is laden with the writing of computer code. He quickly admits it won’t be for everyone and may initially attract those more interested in playing “Plants vs. Zombies” than developing the sophisticated programming that makes such games work.

Bursting onto the scene in the past 18 months at universities such as Harvard, Stanford and MIT, MOOCs have the potential to change the paradigm of higher education. The courses are free and available to anyone with a computer and Internet connection across the globe. Thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of students enroll for reasons that range from personal knowledge or entertainment to earning college credit.

The idea of free classes that are open to anyone with interest, without prerequisites, and with students located all over the world, is difficult to grasp and prompted questions about the role of faculty, how students learn, and how that learning is assessed emerged in the forum.

While the concepts of assessment, grading and the economics of offering courses on such a large scale are still evolving, UCCS administrators urged faculty to “get on board” before all questions are answered and destinations determined.

“Let’s stipulate that MOOCs are not the same learning experience as an in-classroom experience,” Chamillard said. “One of the biggest problems is that if I get 10,000 students, I will not grade their assignments! It’s just not going to happen. You can’t do it. You can’t scale up.”

Different was a consistent theme.

Venkat Reddy

Venkat Reddy

“In fall 2011, our campus launched four undergraduate degree completion programs in business, criminal justice, health sciences and nursing. Since then, these programs attracted over 3,500 enrollments with minimal to no marketing. This shows the pent-up demand for online programs and classes from our students,” said Venkat Reddy, dean, College of Business, and executive director of online program development. “Through these degree completion programs we are helping a student who graduated from Lamar community college complete her undergraduate degree in nursing without leaving her community.”

CU-Boulder recently joined a MOOC consortium and CU is considering a systemwide contract to provide faculty members tools needed to present a sophisticated MOOC experience. At Boulder, four courses quickly enrolled 36,000 students.

Plans are under way for a Blackboard course for faculty who are interested in learning more about MOOCs or online education in general. Faculty interested in receiving more information should contact  Kelli Klebe, dean, Graduate School, kklebe@uccs.edu, or KrisAnn McBroom, administrative assistant, Graduate School, kmcbroom@uccs.edu.

To see a video about MOOCs shown at the forum, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=eW3gMGqcZQc

 

Photos by Philip Denman

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