Friday, November 22, 2013

Opportunities of MOOCs for Canberra

The Australian National University in Canberra, will host "Teachers to the Node: Rethinking Science Education in the Digital Era", with Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt, 6pm, 10 December 2013. The invitation for the free event suggests that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)  can "... help deliver a taste of on-campus offerings to future students ...".  There would be little point in doing this if the on-campus programs were traditional, boring, 50 minute "Lecture 1.0". But universities are increasingly using a blended mode of teaching, combining on-line delivery of "Lecture 2.0" and face-to-face Interactive Engagement in the flipped classroom.

Canberra's universities are rethinking the provision of their for-fee programs using on-line and blended education. Purely on-campus programs will not be viable within five years. University "lecturers" are being retrained as content designers, to work along side new course design staff, to set up attractive programs. This has to be done to compete in a global educational market.

The strategy of a few free on-line, non-award courses, to attract students to conventional lecture based programs would be counterproductive. Offering a few token  on-line courses would just highlight problems with poorly designed lecture based on-campus programs. Universities need to incorporate e-learning into the core of their programs, not have it as a marketing gimmick. Students who enroll in a university on the strength of a MOOC will be disappointed if they find little support for that on-line teaching style in the program. Those students may fee the university has falsely promoted their programs and register a complaint with the regulator. The student satisfaction feedback survey results of these institutions will also suffer.

The design of on-line and blended courses requires new skills of university academics and administrators. It also requires a significant investment by the university, as unlike face to face lecture based courses, the lecturer can't just make it up as the go along and correct problems of the fly. E-learning requires careful design and testing before delivery.

I will be discussing this in "MOOCs and The Student Experience" at the Inaugural Student Experience Conference,  in Sydney on the 4 December 2013.

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