Season 1, Episode 2: Getting a Harvard Education with MOOCs on The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast (Show Notes)

Season 1, Episode 2: Getting a Harvard Education with MOOCs on The Educator’s Companion to PD Podcast (Show Notes)

I know that a lot of people enjoying reading and skimming through podcast show notes to get a gist of the highlights of the episode. This podcast was originally recorded back in May 2017. To listen to the podcast, please go here.
Today we are going to talk about one of my favorite free learning resources: MOOCs. Spelled M. O. O. C.  Perhaps you have heard of them. But otherwise, you might be thinking, Huh what’s a MOOC? Yep, it’s a real word and it stands for Massive Open Online Course.
Massive means there’s a ton of choice of courses and the opportunity for many people to sign up. In a typical course, maybe 30 students sign up, but here you could literally have hundreds, if not thousands.
Open means that anyone can sign up and take the course, anytime and from anywhere. Its content is unlicensed and is free if you choose to audit it. Otherwise, certification can cost you upwards to 100 USD. In some cases, there are micro-credentials programs, which would cost beyond that, but today we are just focusing on one-off courses.
Online means that all of the learning content happens via the internet. Most of the interaction happens on one platform and in the online forums. Participants sign up and work through the modules, which can be done at any time of the day. The learning is asynchronized and so you needn’t complete work on specific time deadlines and can be very much self-paced.
Course means that it is structured with the intent to develop knowledge and skills. There is a curriculum to work through, complete with class outlines or syllabi that  a participant works through during the class. Oftentimes you can get college credit or certification by completing the course and paying a fee.
Sounds pretty good, right! Yes, it is! And MOOCs are really making it possible for people to be lifelong learners because there is no shortage of courses or programs that one can explore. In fact, they are poised to really disrupt higher education with the focus on competency-based education that emphasizes what students know and are able to do, rather than on how long it takes them to do it. Although I don’t want to really go into how MOOCs are challenging the status quo when it comes to getting degrees, let’s just say that  MOOCs are evolving and creating “micro Masters” programs so that one can really uplevel their knowledge and skills. So this is really a fantastic time to get on board the MOOC train because you have some fabulous professional development from high-quality universities.

So although there are many MOOC providers, I want to explore a few of them that have relevant courses for educators.
1. EdX: Courses are offered by well-known universities like MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, UC Berkeley, Kyoto University, Australian National University, University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, Dartmouth College, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Curtin University.  You can learn anything from Design thinking to strategies for inquiry-based learning to Big Data and education. There’s no shortage of interesting and relevant courses that you can take so that you can become more informed and innovative in your classroom.
2. The next one is Cousera. Courses here are offered by universities such as Stanford University, Princeton University, Arizona State University, University of Maryland College Park, Yale and Duke Universities. Here you can learn about topics such as emerging trends and technology for virtual classrooms, music in the 21st-century classroom, autism spectrum disorder, digital storytelling, copyright for teachers and librarians. The list goes on.
3. My 3rd favorite MOOC provider is FutureLearn and most of these universities hail from the UK such as the University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, University of Leicester, University of Reading, Open University, University of Southampton.  There you can explore topics such as Assessment for Learning in STEM teaching, Mindfulness, Dyslexia and foreign language teaching, science writing, Getting a grip on mathematical symbolism, learning how to code, and social well-being. Again, a plethora of choices.
4. Another great MOOC provider is Open2Study which offers courses from a mulititude of Australian universities such as James Cook University, Griffith University, University of Wollongong, Flinders University, RMIT University, Central Institute of Technology, Sydney Institute, University of Western Sydney, Polytechnic West, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Newcastle, Jordan University of Science and Technology, University of Tasmania, International College of Management, Sydney, Massey University. There you can explore topics such as Early Childhood teaching, Sports and recreation management, the Human Body as a Machine, Education in a Changing World, Foundations in Psychology, the Art of Photography, and World Music. Again, a multitude of topics to pique your interest.
5. Lastly, I want to speak about the Canvas Network whose courses are made from a network of American universities based in Utah. You can take courses about digital tools for K-12 educators, art appreciation, chemistry, grammar, educating girls, digital citizenship. and economics. One of my favorite courses I’ve ever taken, and probably the one that hooked me into taking MOOCs was offered by then. It was about becoming more creative.
There are more MOOC providers but these are my top picks for educators. Since you have figured out your learning goal already and know what topics you want to explore, you can easily browse on any of these sites to find courses that would match your professional interest. Complete one course at a time. It’s tempting to sign up for 10, but stay focused. Most courses will tell you how long it will take to complete, with roughly 2-4 hours a week being an average.
 Now I’d like to do a segment that I am calling the 3/2/1. 3 pros of this of the resource. 2 Cons and 1 idea to help you succeed.
3 pros of this resource:
  1. These are high-quality courses, nearly the equivalent of a college class.
  2. You can participate at any time or as much or as little as you want, so your level of engagement is defined by you.
  3. You can explore a variety of perspectives on an educational topic, or gain timely content knowledge that you can use in your lesson plans.
2 Cons
  1. Since these classes aren’t going toward a degree, courses aren’t usually offered over and over again as they might in a traditional college with its semesters. If you missed the sign-up date, there’s a chance you can still access an archived version of the course, but it just depends on how it was set up.
  2. On some MOOC sites, they are really pushing that you pay for the courses. For example, on Cousera, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the sign-up page before you see an “audit this class for free” button.  If you need continuing education credits for your teaching license certification, then you have to pay for it. So that’s the caveat on this, however, if you want to enroll in the class for free, you can always upgrade and pay for it later to get credits towards your certification and the price is rarely more than 50 USD. So I might suggest that you sign up and see your willing to see this class to the end before I make the investment in it if you need professional development certification credits.
1-Idea for success
  1. There are a ton of interesting subjects being explored via MOOCs. Before signing up for a MOOC, look back at your goal–is this course really in alignment with what you’re trying to accomplish? Read through the syllabi to ensure that it’s covering topics that will move you towards accomplishing your goal. Looking through the syllabus carefully will also help you to make sure that you have the prerequisite skills for completing it. For example, I signed up for a Robotics MOOC and then later I found out that I had to take a pre-test that tested my knowledge of Linear Algebra. Since it’s been ages since I took higher math, I went over to Khan Academy to reteach myself. When I did that, I realized that I would really need to invest more time in getting the prerequisite skills to do the MOOC. So I re-examined why I wanted to take the course and decided that my time invested in this course wouldn’t really help me become a better teacher, hence I dropped the course.

Hopefully, this overview was helpful and got you thinking about how you can deepen your knowledge of current and important pedagogy without spending loads of money. If you have any other MOOC providers that you also feel are worthy of notice, then comment below. Thanks!

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Judy Imamudeen

Judy Imamudeen

Developing learners as leaders is my joy! As a highly qualified International Baccaluearate (IB) teacher and educational leader, I am committed and passionate about executing its framework and empowering students in creating a future world that works for everyone.

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