The Stanford Libraries DIG+Plus group hosted a mix of educators and researchers involved with Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) at last week’s Chalk Talk event.
Among the panelists was Arik Lifshitz, Associate Provost for Institutional Research and Planning at University of the People (UoPeople), who spoke about this new institution's driving mission of democratizing higher education by providing access to an otherwise constrained population around the world. He revealed that UoPeople relies on open educational resources, technology and peer learning. While Arik emphasized that UoPeople does not currently offer MOOCs (since they don't do any "massive" courses), they have provided free education to many students around the world, and consider the many current MOOC developments (and their extensive coverage in the press) as legitimizing UoPeople's efforts, while also creating many new opportunities for collaboration. He alluded to possibilities such as incorporating content (but not pedagogy) or even offering their own MOOCs at some point. Arik used the story of Haiti's student Joe Jean -- who enrolled in UoPeople just after the devastating earthquake, and eventually transferred to the elite Abu Dhabi University -- to illustrate the power of opening access to higher education.
Kim Hayworth, from the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning (VPOL) here at Stanford, highlighted that new office's ongoing work focusing on pedagogy, production and platform. When asked about MOOCs in relation to the university's mission, she said that the potential of blended, flipped, or other models of instruction (which are common in MOOCs) to enhance in-person student learning here at Stanford, is what drives their involvement in this space. Kim discussed resources for creating and delivering MOOCs that are available to Stanford instructors.
Graduate School of Education CTO and Assistant Dean Paul Kim, together with Instructional Technology Specialist Pamela Levine, described how their recent MOOC, Designing a New Learning Environment on the Venture Lab platform, led to many global connections that were encouraged by team projects and facilitated by social media tools. Challenges that they navigated included encounters with internet restrictions in parts of the world where online media is regulated or where only low-bandwidth connections are available. Some of the greatest benefits Paul Kim is seeing are ongoing collaborations with his MOOC graduates, leading to what he calls a “Massive Ongoing Online Class.” He emphasized the importance of peer assessment, learning outcomes, and competencies as key ingredients of MOOCs, and advised institutions and individuals considering MOOCs to embrace experimentation while also reflecting on their core mission. Pamela Levine spoke of the diverse students that enrolled and completed Designing a New Learning Environment (including one of the panelists, Kim Hayworth), and described how it was students in the course who played the more significant role in driving learning, answering each others' questions, sharing resources, and building a knowledge base in the large-scale online environment -- shifting the instructor's role from the ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side.’
Merrilee Proffit, a Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research, shared some interesting results from her recent research on Libraries and MOOCs. She pointed out that professors without previous online teaching tend to lean heavily on libraries when they first venture into MOOCs. Her findings revealed some doubts about the sustainability and "added value" of all the work that instructor often have to put into MOOCs. She also found that, for an average MOOC from one of their leading providers, Coursera, it takes a staggering 380 hours to create material and clear copyrights for a single class. Copyrights issues are making universities cautious, since the classes most often provide access to learning materials to users outside the usual licensing institutions -- although public libraries are showing a lot of interest in MOOCs as well, and these institutions already have experience licensing e-resources to entire communities. She believes MOOCs offer librarians many opportunities: for example, in new ways of engaging with others at the university, as well as opportunities for patrons to look at the library in altogether new ways.
Presenters' slides are available on the Library Chalk Talk CourseWork site.