For the last few years, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have captured the attention of educational innovators and emerged as a potentially disruptive mode of engaging learners. While it is now clear that MOOCs will not be replacing campus-based learning, it is also clear that Northwestern’s MOOCs are having a significant positive impact on our faculty and students on campus.
Thanks to ongoing analyses by members of the Office of the Provost, the Coordinated Service Center, and the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching, it appears that MOOCs are helping to stimulate dialogue about—and experiments in—innovative teaching and learning practices. Interviews with the faculty who have taught Northwestern’s MOOCs indicate that their intellectual investments are paying off in a variety of ways. Some benefits include:
- Faculty and TAs/support staff learn more about effective teaching and learning as a result of their involvement with MOOCS
- Faculty who develop resources for their MOOC are incorporating digital assets back into their campus classes (e.g. recorded videos, quizzes/assessments, interactive modules)
- Broad dissemination of the faculty experience with MOOCS through venues such as conferences, published articles, and campus events
Candy Lee, co-creator of the online specialization in content strategy and Professor of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) shared how teaching MOOCS inspired her to apply the “threaded discussion” model to her IMC classes on campus. “Teaching online, I found ways to, for example, make a topic from week three relate back to week two. The online model forced me to tie the learning together in a way that I had not been coached to do on campus. This helped me to design courses where everything relates back to a central learning experience.”
In addition to instructional benefits, students and faculty are benefitting from collaboration with global learners and exposure to new ideas.
Jake Julia, Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives, expressed his excitement about the benefits he sees for students and faculty. “We have freshman engineering students engaging online with PhD students in Ukraine, effectively extending our classroom beyond Evanston. We have faculty informing their peers and teaching each other about their experiences online. It was our hope that MOOCs would facilitate faculty innovation and they have done so.”
For more information on MOOCs currently being offered by Northwestern faculty or to enroll in an upcoming course, please visit our MOOC page on the Digital Learning website.