This week I started my first MOOC (massive open online course) in STEM teaching for undergraduates offered through coursera. I’m am intrigued to try out an online course for a few reasons. I’m very interested in undergraduate teaching and curious about the opportunities I might have to reach out to a broader range of STEM teachers through a large online platform, and additionally to see an online course in action to see how effective they can be.
I firmly believe that everyone should have the access to education and be able to pursue their academic interests. There are a variety of avenues through which a student can learn. The most canonical is the path from secondary education to college and then potentially on to graduate studies, all of which are housed on various campuses with interactive, face-to-face encounters with educators. This is my experience with education so far and I have found that it worked extremely well for me. However, there are students for whom, for a variety of reasons (economic, work schedules, family commitments, etc), this is not always an effective model. I would like to believe that online classes, especially those that are available at no, or reduced, cost to the student, present a meaningful alternative. I go into the experience with a bit of skepticism. How can you replace the time spent in class with a group of students and an instructor solely with online content? Can you have relevant and meaningful interactions through online discussion boards and peer feedback on assignments? Whichstrategies are effective for presenting new knowledge and information online? Which fall short? How do you assess learning in an online environment? How do you keep students engaged and motivated to keep up with coursework and complete the class (one of the biggest drawbacks to online courses seems to be low completion rate)?
As I go forward with my academic pursuits, and have the potential to teach in a variety of ways, I would like to reach out to as many students as possible. That could potentially mean developing online courses, and this seems like a good first step: try out an online course and get a handle on the pros and cons from a student perspective. So, here goes!