Thursday, February 28, 2013

MOOCs: Transforming Education- In 10 Minutes

Both academic and corporate institutions are rushing to find a way to create, explain, and deploy successful and well publicized MOOCs- Massive Open Online Courses.  News outlets and marketing firms are attempting to explain their purpose and value.  In the longer view, many are questioning if there is a profit at the end of the road. To be truly successful, a MOOC needs to be scalable in a sustainable framework, with a potential towards profitability.  The key is to develop a proof-of-concept to illustrate how a MOOC can and should be created.

In a special 10 minute web streamed presentationJim Jorstad, Director of Academic Technologies and Dr. Bob Hoar, Math Professor and Founder of the IIURL, both from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, collaborated to shape the discussion on what a MOOC is, and how to create one and evaluate its effectiveness.

Through support from the University of Wisconsin System and a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a College Readiness Math MOOC was created with over 1000 students enrolled worldwide. The idea was to test and develop effective teaching strategies and mobile learning technologies to help math students learn more effectively and in a shorter period of time, anywhere and at any time.

In the end, the concept is also testing the MOOCability of the curriculum.  In other words, will a MOOC work as effectively in a traditional class as perhaps in a lab setting, or in other disciplines.  What is learned in this project may lead to future MOOC designs and methods worldwide.  It is the research gained from this project which will help determine if a MOOC can in fact be scalable, sustainable, and profitable.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Social Media- The Power, Speed, and Reach

Photo by Larry Lebiecki
At the February 1st, 2013 Chancellor's Community Council at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I spoke on the topic of social media, and illustrated its power, speed, and reach worldwide.  The audience was made up of faculty, administrators, politicians, business people, students, and community members.  The two-year long research study analyzed how social media can: motivate and engage, accelerate dissemination, distribute fact and fiction, affect attribution of the author, reinforce and influence opinion, and made messages more relevant and authentic.

Key statistics were discussed about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  According to current data, one in 13 people worldwide are daily active Facebook users.  There are 1 million Twitter accounts every day. More than 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute.  All of these statistics are dazzling, however to effectively utilize these social media tools, we must develop a strategic method to form a cohesive, relevant, and sustainable message.

A wide variety of examples of citizen journalism on CNN iReports were highlighted and discussed. "When I started writing for iReports I was hoping for approximately 10,000 views.  Already in 2013, that number has jumped to over 875,000.  The current goal is 1 million."

One of the key strategies in obtaining such impressive numbers of readers is to tell digital stories that focus on some human element so that the viewer can more personally relate to the story.  A wide of variety of stories were highlighted including the Drought of 2012, A Professor with Two Hearts, a Presidential Visit, and a special on Homeless in America.  In each of these examples, the key to success was to a uncover a great story, adding excellent supporting images, and be willing to write the story even if it is difficult to capture it because of the time, location, or weather. "There are stories all around us. We just need to be passionate to capture them."  As I tell my audiences, the stories many times are right in our hands but they frequently fall right through our fingers.  As we use social media to disseminate these stories, as one blogger wrote, "Jim is documenting history in real time."

Monday, February 04, 2013

Webstream Explains MOOCs and How To Develop One

As part of the 7th Passport to Technology held at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a keynote address  entitled, "MOOCs,Math and Beyond: Transforming How We [All] Learn" was introduced by Jim Jorstad, Director of Academic Technologies, and presented by Dr. Bob Hoar, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Professor of Mathematics.

A MOOC is simply a type of on-line course offered to a large population through the web which may provide certification or potentially credit in some situations.  Many MOOCs are free and open to the public, but academia and corporate representatives are looking for a reasonable value/cost model for potential profitability of the course in the future.

At UW-La Crosse, the Math MOOC began out of the creation of a series of math vodcast learning objects as part of the Institute for Innovation in Undergraduate Research and Learning- IIURL in 2007.  In 2012 a FastTrack program was developed to help students take a refresher course in math to eliminate the need to take remedial math courses in the future, saving students time and money.  The success of the program could be seen in when 97% of the student cohort was successfully placed in a college level math course without having to take a remedial math class.

In late 2012, the FastTrack concept was successful awarded a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant fro $50,000 to test if the MOOC concept was sustainable, scalable  and potentially profitable.  According to Dr. Hoar, as enrollment begin to take shape, over 1400 students from ages 11 to 83 enrolled in the class. Entire elementary education classes have enrolled as well. Over 40 countries are participating in this Math MOOC. The project is being hosted on a Desire2Learn learning management system.

The instructional team for this MOOC includes Associate Professor Jen Kosiak, 2012 recipient of the Teacher Educator of the Year from the Student Wisconsin Education Association [left], Associate Lecturer Maggie McHugh, content expert [middle], and Dr. Bob Hoar, who is overall director of the project [right].

The team is working with a team of instructional technologists to ensure the learning objectives are stable and instructionally sound. The MOOC is going through various modifications as feedback is obtained through students.

On-line office hours are offered to help the students feel they have the necessary support to get through the course.  A twenty-nine question pretest was given to gauge the student's initial math abilities to help gauge the progress they will make. It is hoped that what is learned from this pilot will help in the design of other MOOC in math, as well as in other disciplines.

To learn more about the development and operation of this MOOC, you are welcome to view a special Mediasite web stream of the presentation. Click on the Math MOOC webstream to learn more about this innovative project.