Online Courses: What’s Out There?

E-learning (online course) Opportunities for Academy Members
By Jackie Dobrovolny, Ph.D. UCD elearning faculty and member of the Academy’s Elearning Committee

~~Jackie Dobrovolny’s career has encompassed teaching and co-teaching numerous online courses at the University of Colorado-Denver.  Those courses include graduate degree courses, as well as open-admission adult continuing education courses. The content of all these courses is how to design online (elearning) instruction. In each of these online courses, students design and develop an online course which is either self-paced or instructor led. The students in these courses are from all over the U.S., as well as from outside the U.S., e.g., Germany, Israel, and Puerto Rico.

1-Online-EducationCurrently, Jackie is investigating the possibility of developing elearning focused on environmental and/or humane education topics. With respect to members of the Academy using elearning, there are basically three types that might be fun and informative: (1) Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), (2) self-paced courses, and (3) webinars.

MOOCs are instructor lead and often the instructor is a leader in the field. MOOCs are free, have a start and stop date, based on either a quarter or semester calendar, and students don’t have to finish the course, i.e., they can focus only on those parts of the course they find relevant and/or interesting. Students who satisfactorily complete a MOOC, can usually receive a certificate of completion.

Examples of MOOCS – Supported by 33 different universities – Supported by Stanford University – Started by MIT and Harvard. Partners currently include University of Texas system, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, and Wellesley College.

MIT Open Courseware Consortium – Includes 250 universities, providing over 13,000 courses

See below for additional information about MOOCs and the providers listed above.

Self-paced elearning
Online, self-paced courses are another type of elearning that members of the Academy night enjoy. They are often free and students can take as much time as they want to learn parts or all of the content. Typically, self-paced, elearning courses take between 5 minutes and 5 hours for students to complete albeit some students may take several months, spending only a few minutes in the course at each sitting.

Examples of self-paced instruction: “libraries” of courses (All but two of these libraries offer free courses.)
iTunes U
Khan Academy (monthly and annual subscription options)
MetEd (through COMET in Boulder)
National Repository of Online Courses
Ted Talks
Virtual University ($10/course and up)
Terra Incognita

Examples of individual self-paced courses (All of these courses are free.)

African Voices
Ancient Astronomy
Becoming Human
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Freeskills (software coding)
Japanese Americans and the American Constitution
Mission US (history)
Polar Science
Theban Mapping Project (Egypt)

Another online learning opportunity for members of the Academy is the synchronous webinars offered by various professional
development organizations and software companies. These are typically 45 minutes to two hours. Everyone is online at the same time and there is a presenter/faculty presenting the content. Some webinars are free; for others there is a fee.

Use Webinar Base or PBS (Public Broadcasting System) to search for a webinar on a specific topic or field of interest.


MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses
Instructor-led courses with hundreds or thousands of students in each course. Currently, few MOOCs offer college “credit” albeit many offer certificates of completion. The learning theory supporting many MOOCs is called Connectivism, which assumes that learning is neural, conceptual, and social. Stephen Downs, a Connectivist expert, said, “to teach is to model and demonstrate, to learn is to practice and reflect.” For more on Connectivism see the following:
* “What is Connectivism?” This is a 15 minute presentation by George Siemens, a Connectivist expert.
* Connectivism: Wikipedia article.

Information about current providers of MOOCs
* 33 universities support Coursera
* Two venture capital firms fund the organization.
* 213 free courses primarily in technical sciences, i.e., science, computer science, math, and engineering
* The following is a partial listing of courses outside of the technical sciences.
o Humanities – 35 courses including:
o Language of Hollywood – Storytelling, sound and color – 5 weeks
o Science, technology and society in China – 3 weeks.
o Sports and society – 8 weeks
o Archeology’s dirty little secrets – 8 weeks
o Writing in the sciences – 8 weeks
o Listening to world music – 7 weeks
o Economics – 23 courses including:
o Fundamentals of personal financial planning – 7 weeks
o Microeconomic principles – 8 weeks
o Macroeconomic principles – 6 weeks
o Generating the wealth of nations – 6 weeks
o Climate change – 9 weeks
o Computer Science – 22 courses
* Recent major problem:
* Started February 2012
* Set up by Stanford University
* Has offered 15 free courses as of March, 2013
* All courses in technical disciplines
* Partnering with San Jose State to offer $150/course under graduate courses.
* Charles River Associates appears to be their sponsor.
* MIT and Harvard started
* Partners include:
o University of Texas System
o UC Berkeley
o Georgetown
o Wellesley College
* Have offered nine free courses in chemistry, computer science, and electronics so far.
* First liberal arts courses to be offered in the Fall 2013 by Wellesley.

MIT Open Courseware Consortium
* Started in 2001
* The OCW Consortium includes 250 universities providing over 13,000 courses
* MIT offers free 2150 courses
* So far they estimate 100 million people have used their services.
* They provide courses in 11 major topic areas including:
o Business
o Energy
o Engineering
o Fine arts (8 courses)
o Health & Medicine
o Humanities (500 + courses)
o Mathematics
o Science
o Social Science
o Society
o Teaching and Education
* Demographics of students
o 43% are life-long learners
o 42% are students
o 9% are educators
o 44% North America
o 17% Europe and Russia
o 20% China and SE Asia
o 9% India and nearby nations

Sofia: Offer the following community college courses
* Creative typography
* Physical geography
* Enterprise network security
* Elementary statistics
* Intro to Java programing
* Intro to Macromedia Flash
* Muscianship
* Webpage authoring

General information about MOOCs
* Top 10 sites for MOOCs and good video (at the end) about what is a MOOC:
* Find a MOOC:
* How to succeed in a MOOC: Video
* What is a MOOC? Some great background info and instructional design considerations.