OU Honors College Works with Student to Develop MOOC Pilot Program

Note: this excellent piece by Max Janerka, is from the Oklahoma Daily.  A great story about an honors dean collaborating with a student…

Starting this coming semester, OU will be offering an experimental program of MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses.

This pilot program will be made available exclusively through the Honors College at first, and it will not count for OU credit, said Jake Morgan, a microbiology sophomore and the mastermind behind the program.

Morgan, who also is a reporter for The Daily, said the pilot program will begin a few weeks into the semester and function like the Honors College reading groups, where students involved in the online courses meet in informal groups once a week to discuss what they learned and study together.

This would make up for the lack of community sentiment that is regarded as the greatest pitfall of MOOCs as a whole, Morgan said, and it will allow students to work together in pursuit of knowledge.

Morgan said he got the idea when he attended an educational symposium called “NextEd” at the Oklahoma Creativity Festival. One of the speakers there was Ken Parker, founder of NextThought, which is an innovative start-up focused on improving the quality and accessibility of online education, according to Creative Oklahoma’s website.

At the festival, Parker talked about online education and discussed MOOCs and the dangers and pitfalls of studying online and relying on the Internet, Morgan said. The question that bothered Morgan was how to create a learning community while still being involved in the MOOC, so he decided to try to resolve the biggest problem of a lack of interaction here at OU.

After coordinating with Honors College Dean David Ray, Morgan came up with a plan.

The program will encompass four online courses over three platforms: Game Theory and Critical Thinking in Global Challenges from Coursera, How to Build a Startup from Udacity and a course on artificial intelligence from edX. Morgan said it was important for the pilot program to be spread over multiple platforms and different types of programs in order to have a wider base from which to build the MOOC program in the future.

The artificial intelligence course is, according to edX’s website, an upper-division course originating from UC Berkley that is taught by Pieter Abbeel and Dan Klein and introduces the basic ideas and techniques underlying the design of intelligent computer systems.

How to Build a Startup is a business course focusing on instructor Steve Blank’s Customer Development process, according to Udacity’s website. The key steps of this process include identifying and engaging the first customers for a product and gathering, evaluating and using customer feedback to improve the product, marketing and business model.

Game Theory from Coursera is taught by Matthew O. Jackson and Yoav Shoham of Stanford University and Kevin Leyton-Brown of the University of British Columbia and focuses on “representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modeling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more,” according to the website.

The Coursera website also describes the course Critical Thinking in Global Challenges as one which will help students to “develop and enhance [their] ability to think critically, assess information and develop reasoned arguments in the context of the global challenges facing society today.” This course is taught by Mayank Dutia and Celine Caquineau, both of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Morgan said the program is still in its planning stages. Meeting times, resources and student involvement are all still being worked on.

“We are planning on starting small,” Morgan said. “That way, if there is a problem, whether in the program or in logistics, we will be able to tackle it.”

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