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Teaching and Learning in Open, Online Courses

Posted by on Monday, October 8, 2012 in News.

On September 19th, Vanderbilt announced a new partnership with the digital learning consortium Coursera.  Coursera is an online platform for open-access, non-credit classes, available at no cost to participants.  Such courses have been dubbed “MOOCs,” or massive open online courses, and Vanderbilt faculty will offer five such courses via Coursera this spring, in the fields of computer science, nursing, English, management, and bioinformatics.  MOOCs are characterized by their openness, enabling anyone across the world with an Internet connection to participate.  As a result, most MOOCs have thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of participants.

An online course with potentially tens of thousands of students is a very different teaching environment than face-to-face courses or even “traditional” online courses.  Teaching strategies practiced in other teaching contexts won’t necessarily translate well to this context.  Indeed, the sets of choices regarding learning objectives, content presentation, assessment, and instructor-to-student and student-to-student interaction are still being developed in this emergent teaching environment.  Over the next year, the CFT will explore this new teaching environment by 

  • Offering course design support to the faculty teaching Coursera courses this spring, as well as to other faculty interested in teaching (or teaching with) MOOCs,
  • Hosting conversations among the Vanderbilt teaching community about the kinds of teaching and learning that are possible in these environments, and
  • Investigating ways MOOCs and related technologies might enhance teaching and learning here on Vanderbilt’s campus.

For more on these efforts, see CFT director Derek Bruff’s blog post about the Coursera initiative and the CFT’s new teaching guide on massive open online courses.


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