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Enhancing a MOOC With Adaptive Learning

14 May

By Linda L. Briggs

When Ohio State University math professor Jim Fowler and his colleague Thomas Evans, a senior instructional designer at the school, decided to create a calculus MOOC, they envisioned a course with an adaptive learning engine that would give students lots of practice doing math problems that matched their skill level. But when the pair moved forward with building the course in Coursera, they came up with a problem: The system did not include tools to support their adaptive learning agenda.

Coursera’s mechanism for delivering problem sets is designed to provide the same number of questions to every student. Fowler and Evans envisioned something different: “I really like being able to have the number and sort of questions students do depend on their performance,” Fowler said. “If a student is really just killing it, they can move through the whole thing quickly. If students are struggling, they get more time to think about it. I think it’s a way of being more respectful of a student’s time.”

To give their Coursera course the adaptive flavor they were looking for, Fowler and Evans created an add-on, dubbed “MOOCulus.” Bolted on to Coursera’s MOOC platform, the tool is designed to feed students progressively harder questions based on previous answers.

“We felt it was important that students have this sort of practice area,” Evans said. “Learning calculus involves doing math, lots of math…. We wanted problems that would react to students.”

MOOCulus is written in JavaScript and the open source Web application framework Ruby on Rails. Although geared toward calculus, the tool is freely available for others to tailor to their courses. Fowler did the bulk of the backend programming, along with some graduate students; Evans handled other aspects, including production issues and interacting with Coursera.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2014/05/14/enhancing-a-mooc-with-adaptive-learning.aspx ]

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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in MOOCs in the News

 

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