By Charlotte Clarke
In 2012 Sharon Watkins was watching a Ted talk when she came across the concept of Moocs – massive open online courses. She was so impressed by the prospect of elite education being delivered for free to the masses, that she decided to set up a Mooc cohort where she works in Springfield, Ohio.
Ms Watkins is studying for a doctorate in education administration, and has worked with Springfield City School district to establish a learning café – an innovative programme that involves families in education.
She saw Moocs as an opportunity to target motivated learners of any age regardless of ability, academic history or economic background.
In February the following year, 10 adults – two men and eight women – signed up to study part one of Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, by the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business.
The majority of the class were on a low or fixed income and aged between 45 to 55. One had a doctorate, one a BA and a few others had some coursework at an associate degree level, but most had never completed a postsecondary degree.
Why did you choose the Mooc Grow to Greatness?
I left it for the group to decide. I showed them the Ted talk and then we looked at the Coursera list. I curated it a bit, looking for courses lasting no longer than five to six weeks and I asked them to write down their top two. Eventually, we narrowed the list down to the Darden programme. A facilitator came in to run the class logistics while I observed.