Academics & Research

Moving in on MOOCs

With technology, everything you’ve ever wanted is available to you with just a few clicks — including your education.

The UH System jumped on the massive open online course bandwagon in May, announcing participation with Coursera — one of the four prominent companies within the MOOCs industry. The collaboration with Coursera gives students and professors access to the free courses.

“This agreement allows the University of Houston to use the Coursera platform to offer MOOCs and to pay to use the Coursera platform to offer current UH courses,” said Jeff Morgan, interim associate provost for Education and Technology Innovation. “In the latter case, the Coursera platform simply becomes another learning management system, like Blackboard Learn or CourseWare.”

UH isn’t the only university cozying up to Coursera. The 15-month-old company, founded by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, already has 84 universities and systems contributing content and more than 4 million students enrolled.

At this point, there are no for-credit courses available to students at UH. Before the implementation of for-credit courses, UH faculty members are contributing in teams to create courses for Coursera to be used by all ages all around the world, Morgan said.

Universities are in the trial phase, as most are just dipping their toes in the MOOC water, either by having professors contribute or using the MOOC content as class supplements. However, the University of Texas System is providing their first courses this fall.

“I think everyone is keeping an eye on everyone else. Universities are learning and evolving, and new technologies are constantly being developed and explored. Online courses have taken shape over the past 15 years, and the Internet, learning management systems, streaming videos and online textbooks are now widely used in many forms of course delivery,” Morgan said.

“When online courses started, few people gave them much hope, but universities have learned and continue to learn to teach in this and other venues.”

Ioannis Pavlidis, director of the Computational Physiology Lab in the Department of Computer Science, is leading an instructional team that is contributing to a MOOC in ubiquitous computing and is supporting a team creating a course in science ethics.

“I am not sure where exactly the MOOCs issue will settle, but it is not going away. It is changing the way academic instruction is done, and whoever does not take this seriously and does not join the process early is likely to face serious problems in the future,” Pavlidis said.

“Things are moving fast in the 21st century and timing is everything. MOOCs are likely to globalize the academic instructional market, which is the only true ‘hard revenue’ universities have. The financial impact on universities that will lose competitiveness during the course of this transformation is likely to be strong and in some cases catastrophic.”

[email protected]

Leave a Comment