Innovative MOOCs Take Learning in New Directions

12 Mar

Recent efforts are tweaking the formula for massive open online courses and expanding their reach to new audiences.

By Dian Schaffhauser

HarvardX's SPOCs

[ Harvard is experimenting with “small private online courses” exclusively for its alumni community. ]

The MOOC philosophy has always come across as “Go big or go home.” But some of the most interesting experiments occurring right now would better be described as “Divide and conquer.” These undertakings — one an experiment at Harvard (MA) and the other a longer-term commitment at the University of Michigan — are allowing schools to try out new practices from a narrower perspective, while still impacting the broader workings of the institution.

International Ties

The population of non-U.S. students at the University of Michigan has increased every year over the last decade. The 2,619 students from China, Hong Kong and Macau make up 44 percent of the institution’s international enrollment in the 2014-2015 academic year. Yet that’s a pittance compared to the nearly 23,000 Chinese students who have registered for “Model of Thinking,” one of U Michigan’s first massive open online courses to be produced in Mandarin for the China market through its Coursera ties.

Coursera’s site features Chinese-language courses from four schools in China, including Peking University and Shanghai Jiao Tong U. But over the last couple of years the company has announced deals with three Chinese firms, NetEase, Hujiang and Guokr, to launch Chinese-language versions of its English-language courses.

As one of the first four institutions to sign up with Coursera in 2012, it makes sense that U Michigan would participate in the China projects, alongside other Coursera members. But beyond that, said James DeVaney, assistant vice provost of Digital Education & Innovation at the university, this project could also be considered an extension of the school’s own ties to the country. The institution has been undertaking research, education initiatives and partnerships with Chinese universities “since James Angell was president,” he noted (Angell’s term lasted from 1871 to 1909.)

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: ]

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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News


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