Friday, March 01, 2013

MOOCs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Last week, my institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Coursera announced plans to offer four MOOCs over the next year. (I am not directly involved with this initiative, though many colleagues in my Academic Technology department are in key leadership and support roles.)

We will be offering courses on

I wanted to highlight a few observations from our campus that might be informative to others:
    •    Amount of publicly available information regarding our MOOC initiative
    •    Our rationale for offering MOOCs
    •    MOOC platforms

Our exploration of MOOCs is part of a larger campus effort called Educational Innovation which is a multi-pronged initiative to create new courses and programs and reach new learners.

I commend our campus leadership for posting a lot of information that explains the background for our decision to enter the "moocosphere" (credit +Stephen Downes). We also have created an interesting FAQ.

It is reassuring to hear the rationale our campus leaders have put forth for deciding why and how to offer MOOCs. They have characterized this delivery model as experimental and an opportunity to learn. They have linked MOOCs to the Wisconsin Idea, our century-old core principle of serving our citizens. From our FAQ:
MOOCs provide a number of benefits.  They are an avenue for outreach and public service on a global scale.  By experimenting with MOOCs, we gain enhanced knowledge of assessment techniques, technologies, and learning analytics that may be transferable to our on-campus teaching and learning processes.  MOOCs showcase our talented faculty members and instructional academic staff and provide positive visibility for our campus and degree programs. UW-Madison has a long tradition of supporting outreach through the Wisconsin Idea and supporting pedagogical innovation as evidenced by the Educational Innovation effort.
I am extremely interested in hearing from our (stellar) faculty that will be leading these MOOCs as to their experiences and insights for future online teaching and learning.

Finally, I am also quite curious to learn more about the Coursera platform. If large open courses are part of our future, I cannot envision our current LMSs (Desire2Learn and Moodle) being appropriate for delivery of MOOCs without radical redesign.

Regarding the use of the Coursera platform, this tidbit in our FAQ certainly caught my attention:
Can UW-Madison use the Coursera platform to deliver content for UW-Madison credit courses?
Yes, UW-Madison would have free use of the Coursera platform within UW-Madison for our enrolled students. Current course tools available include video course delivery, online quizzes, auto-grading, and community blogs.
I had not heard of this possibility yet. My assumption - which clearly needs to be tested - is that we'll likely need one platform for traditional course delivery and another for future MOOCs. (If you have thoughts on this, please leave comments...I'd like to learn more.)

Is your campus offering MOOCs? Do you have information to share that can help others? What are your thoughts about future learning platforms?


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

that tidbit is interesting (definitely in a 'wait a minute, what ??' way)

Thanks for pointing it out though. I've been following the MOOC discussions in UW more widely with interest as they crop up. AFAIK the UW La Crosse Math Mooc is using D2L so I'm hoping to hear more about that as it progresses.

[as an aside it's titbit in British English which may explain why I keep thinking i've spelt/ spelled that incorrectly...]

Jeff Bohrer said...

My understanding about the math MOOC from UW-La Crosse is that is hosted by D2L and that they had to customize it a bit. Here's their MOOC home:

They have some interesting info on the site above including a map of U.S. registrants (1009 total, over 600 from Wisconsin) and a sample learning module.

Darrin Smith said...

Interesting stuff Jeff. I'm currently enrolled in "Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations" through Coursera and the communication avenues such as the ("wandering") forums are somewhat overwhelming. It can be difficult to focus in on the meat, and substantive discussion. I see the potential in the MOOC concept, but I think a more effective communication structure would improve the experience immensely. Of course content is king but if it's delivered on what amounts to a mostly passive platform I don't know that it will live up to the hope.

I'll let you know how it turns out for me.