Whether you are new to college-level teaching or a seasoned professor, professional development is an essential part of the job. Staying current in our course topics, the technology used to connect with students, and emerging instructional strategies takes time and effort, but there’s rarely funding available for things like conference travel or advanced training.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a viable alternative. These courses are free to access and are developed by a wide range of universities. They provide a good way to explore a new area of interest, enhance a current skill and learn with classmates from across the globe. They are also a great way to test the waters if you are thinking about teaching online and/or it’s been a while since you were enrolled as a student in an academic course.
As part of a recent work assignment, I researched upcoming MOOCs for students interested in specific academic topics. I was surprised at the number of options available and how easy it was to search for them in multiple systems (e.g., Coursera,edX, Canvas Network). What courses are available for online instructors?
7 Online Teaching MOOCs
My quick search for “online education” and “online teaching” topics, conducted through MOOC providers’ websites, resulted in this list of classes that start in the next couple of weeks, as well as self-paced options and archived materials.
1. Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice (Canvas Network)
- Kirkwood Community College
- Begins June 22, 2015: 5 weeks
Prepare for your first online course with this class, which is focused on practical tasks such as developing online course policies and using technology in the context of teaching. Topics include: working with a diverse student population, online course design, and student communication and engagement.
- University of Toronto
- Begins July 1, 2015: 8 weeks
This course’s main audience is K-12 teachers, but higher education instructors are also encouraged to attend. Among other activities, you’ll work with classmates to design a collaborative lesson. Topics include: mobile technology, student-centered and inquiry-based instructional strategies, and online learning assessment.
3. Learning to Teach Online (Coursera)
- University of New South Wales, Australia
- Begins July 6, 2015: 6 weeks
Find out how to make the most of technology integration for online teaching and learning. This course offers a MOOC Plus option with in-person and virtual study groups. Topics include: designing online courses, using open educational resources, selecting technologies, engaging students and choosing online assessment strategies and learning activities.
4. Digital.Me: Managing Your Digital Self (Canvas Network)
- University of Derby, UK
- Begins July 6, 2015: 6 weeks
Teaching online means developing a digital presence that may extend beyond the virtual walls of your classroom. Learn more about managing technology, participating in web-based communities and creating a positive digital reputation. Topics include: digital footprints, literacy and citizenship.
5. Introduction to the Design of Everyday Things (Udacity)
- Author Don Norman and Designer Kristian Simsarian
- Begin anytime – at your own pace: estimated 2 weeks to complete
Don Norman’s book, The Design of Everyday Things is a favorite among instructional design professionals. Through videos and practical exercises, this course provides an overview of how design impacts our lives on many levels. Topics include: basic design concepts, user interfaces and an individual app design project.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Archived: estimated 13 weeks to complete
While this course took place last year, and may be scheduled again in the future, you can work through the materials and module videos on your own at any time. Topics include: the history of educational technology, how technology changes learning and learning assessment, active learning and strategies for collaboration.
7. Data, Analytics and Learning (edX)
- University of Texas, Arlington
- Archived: estimated 9 weeks to complete
Online course delivery systems track a wide range of statistics. How can this data collection and analysis improve higher education teaching and learning? This course is archived, but you can access the materials online and complete the activities at your own pace. Topics include: analytical tools, analysis interpretation and visualization, text mining and diagnostic metrics.
Don’t stop with this short list. Continue your search for additional open, online learning opportunities scheduled throughout the year. You can explore the course lists offered by individual platforms (check out the MOOC.ca list). Class Central lets you search multiple MOOC platforms at once using keywords to find classes that match your interests.
Not all MOOCs and open education resources are cataloged in the systems I’ve mentioned so far. You can also find interesting opportunities by conducting a general Internet search on your topic of interest, as well as exploring what is offered through specific colleges and universities. Engaging in a MOOC offered by a school in your local area may also result in meeting some of your classmates in person, and expanding your professional network.
Comparing the Options
The basic MOOC concept is similar across platforms, but each course listing provides details that help you decide whether or not to register. What can you expect as an enrolled student? Look for the following types of information:
- Syllabus or Course Outline: details about the topics covered, as well as how the class is structured by module or week.
- Length and Time Estimates: scheduled start and end dates, and estimated hours required each week to participate.
- Target Audience: description of the intended students for the course (e.g., K-12 teachers, higher education professors, corporate trainers, education administrators, everyone); may also include learning level (i.e., basic, intermediate, advanced).
- Course Purpose or Goals: course overview that describes intended learning objectives or outcomes; may be text-based or presented as an introduction video.
- Format: details about how students and instructors interact (e.g., peer feedback, group assignments), asynchronous or synchronous requirements.
- Prerequisites: some description of the background knowledge or skill level expected of students enrolling in the class.
- Instructor Profiles: brief bios about the people who designed and facilitate the course.
- School Profile: most courses are sponsored by a group or institution, which often shares how the MOOC was developed or is part of their overall academic approach.
- Enrollment Options: MOOCs offer free enrollment, but there may be paid options for students interested in receiving a certificate of completion, verification of participation, formal learning assessment or other documentation; varies by course and platform.
- Student Reviews: some platforms allow prior students to rate the courses and/or provide written feedback about their experience in each class.
More MOOC Ideas
Many MOOC systems, including Udemy and Canvas Network, make it possible for you as an independent educator to design and offer your own online course to the public. Northern Illinois University’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers advice for creating a new MOOC, which includes pursuing a topic you are passionate about.
The MOOC you are interested in taking may be part of a larger certificate program. Udacity’s nanodegrees are examples of how MOOC study allows you to pursue an area of professional interest in depth. Successful MOOC completion may also qualify for continuing education credit through a partnership with your professional association, university, or school district.
Make a list of available MOOCs and open education resources for your students. They may be interested in diving a little deeper with one of the topics covered in your course, or appreciate access to supplemental materials that help them review difficult concepts.
Consider adding an open online learning option to your professional development plan this summer.
Image Credit: IlonkaTallina, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-SA
Source: Inside Online Learning Blog