MOOCs Can Revolutionize How Teachers Think About Learning & Teaching
Shawn Wasserman posted on March 20, 2014 |

ENGINEERING.com has spent a lot of time promoting online learning and MOOCs. The budding MOOC platform isn’t perfect, though, as MOOCs suffer from low completion rates and occasional disconnects between students and teachers. On the other hand, MOOCs offer a platform for experimentation, the ability to reach more students, and a way to rethink HOW we approach education today.

A recent report from the Michigan Virtual University (MVU) and Kent State University outlines the conclusion that MOOCS are exerting a positive effect on society. It is also offers teachers a new perspective on their profession.

The study considered a five-week MOOC called “K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century.” It had 848 participants, comprising in-serviced teacher, pre-serviced teachers and high school students looking to join the profession.

Kent State Professor Rick Ferdig explains, “The results suggest MOOCs can be an effective way to engage K-12 students in topics they might not have the opportunity to explore in traditional education … Additionally, the MOOC facilitated a conversation that led students and teachers to think about reinventing teaching and learning with technology.”

While many of the teachers were participating on a voluntary basis, the students were primarily there as part of a class assignment. I wonder if this is the best way to use MOOCs for the future of education; using them as tool for teaching much like a video of Bill Nye or the Magic School bus. Nor am I alone in this thought, as the study does call for research into new ways that MOOCs can supplement K-12 classes.

MOOCs can be both entertaining and educational, used to get students engaged and participating in a global classroom and then bringing what they have learned back to the local level. Perhaps it can be a way for students to follow a passion at home not normally taught in the classroom?

Imagine a third grade class in which a few students get a head start on STEM, a topic they are passionate about. They chose the class from huge body of options and they are no longer restricted by the pace of their traditional curriculum. Or imagine a budding dancer who wants to move as she studies. Unable to concentrate in class, the traditional class structure may keep her from achieving her potential. Perhaps MOOCs are the first step of the education revolution Sir Ken Robinson calls for in his famous TED talks.

Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of MVU explains, “We need to learn more about the potential value and possible pitfalls of MOOCs so we can create effective learning models for the future … Every person has different learning styles and preferences, but I am optimistic that MOOCs will play a role in tomorrow’s formal and informal education settings for certain types of learners.”

The “K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century” MOOC looked to spark a conversation about pedagogy and the role of technology in education and the community. Kari, a high school student who took the course said, “It’s all about community. People help each other out, share ideas, debate on things, and, through that, really connect with what they’re learning. It is built around community, helping each other, and growing through a mix of knowledge, ideas and opinions.”

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Imagine then what MOOCs can do as they let the global community play a part in raising our youth.

Story and Image courtesy of Michigan Virtual University

Recommended For You