By Carl Straumsheim
Two University of Texas at Austin psychology professors will Thursday night take the stage for the fall semester’s first session of Introduction to Psychology. Their audience will consist of a production crew and their equipment. In their years of working together, the professors’ research has shown their students benefit from computer-based learning to the point where they don’t even need to be physically present in the classroom.
Just don’t call it a MOOC. The university styles the class as the world’s first synchronous massive online course, or SMOC (pronounced “smock”), where the professors broadcast their lectures live to the about 1,500 students enrolled.
“I think we were influenced predominantly by this mix of Jon Stewart and ‘The View’ or Jay Leno,” said James W. Pennebaker, chair of the department of psychology at UT-Austin.
The course is the result of almost a decade of research into how students learn. After teaching separate 500-student sections of the introductory course, Pennebaker and fellow psychology professor Samuel Gosling decided to schedule the sections back-to-back. The professors then began experimenting with adaptive learning, requiring students bring a laptop to class so they could take multiple-choice tests and receive instant feedback. Gosling and Pennebaker then built group chats that randomly paired five or six students together for in-class discussions. Last year, they moved one of the two sections of the course online. And with this change, the class will be taught exclusively online.
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/27/ut-austin-psychology-professors-prepare-worlds-first-synchronous-massive-online ]