In May, Moody’s announced that the Georgia Institute of Technology’s MOOC-like master’s degree in computer science is credit positive for the university. That report cited increased brand recognition and the potential to increase and diversify enrollment and revenue as major factors in the decision. Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Figuring out how to offer the lab component of a course has been a challenge for faculty members as they develop massive open online courses (MOOCs) — until now.
Georgia Tech’s Introductory Physics MOOC, which launched on May 20, is using video labs to simulate the experience students would typically have in the classroom. This topic has become the focus of one of seven mini innovation hubs that are researching questions related to MOOCs and online learning.
“In some ways, the video labs provide students and instructors with a better experience than being in a traditional lab,” said Ed Greco, an instructor in the School of Physics and “champion” of the innovation hub that is examining the question of labs in MOOCs. “The videos single students out in a way that forces them to demonstrate their knowledge in a brief period of time, and it’s easier for instructors to hone in on who is getting the material and who isn’t.”
There are 17,000 students enrolled in the MOOC, 11 of which are a part of a for-credit Georgia Tech version of the course where students have both online and on-campus experiences. (More details on the structure of this MOOC will be featured in a future Whistle article.)
All students are asked to complete five labs as part of the course, which will wrap up the last week of July. Each lab requires students to do the following:
- Record a moving object (using any device that will take video).
- Analyze the video using the free video analysis package, Tracker.
- Create models of motion using computer programs written in Python/VPython.
- Compare the observations to the models.
- Create a five-minute video lab report.
- Upload the video to YouTube.
Videos are then graded by fellow classmates based on a six-item rubric that includes questions such as “Does the author state the problem and show a result?” and “Is the video easy to follow?”
But, there have been a few challenges when it comes to the labs. For example, many of the students enrolled in the course live in countries that ban YouTube.
“Students living in places like Pakistan and China where they don’t have access to YouTube have been pretty frustrated with the lack of an alternative,” said Mike Schatz, the professor leading the MOOC. “So we’re going to have to think of a way to work around this with future versions of the course.”
Then there’s the issue of engagement. Schatz estimates that of the thousands of students enrolled, about 1,000 are actually regularly participating in some aspect of the course, whether it’s watching lectures, completing homework or quizzes, or participating in the online forum. But he estimates that only 300 to 400 are doing the labs.
Both Schatz and Greco agree that this is an issue that this hub will be considering as they tweak the course, which they hope to offer again in the fall.
“We’re still trying to figure out what we should expect of MOOC students when it comes to things like time spent on assignments and the money we should expect them to pay for a textbook,” Greco said. “Once we get a better handle on this, it will help us address the poor retention numbers that MOOCs typically have.”
After months of preparation, we finally started our MOOC, “First-Year Composition 2.0,” at Georgia Tech. We are now through the first few weeks of the eight-week course, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Veteran MOOC instructors warned me that the early weeks would be bumpy. The actual experience has often left me panicked—and worried that the course would not be successful. This is not like a traditional course, in which you have a day or two to deal with issues that come up in class. MOOC students expect immediate responses, and that means nearly 24/7 monitoring of the course.
"When you teach a MOOC, you have to be a deliberate teacher," said Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology, at the U.S. News 2013 Stem Solutions Conference.
Are my students engaged? This is the burning question that can be challenging to answer when you’re teaching students face to face — let alone when they are squirreled away behind a computer screen halfway across the world.
That’s why a group of faculty members from Georgia Tech is looking into the issues related to keeping students engaged and involved in massive open online courses (MOOC).
“We’re trying to figure out what can and cannot be replicated when you transition a course from an on-campus to an online learning environment,” said Al Ferri, associate chair for
Undergraduate Studies in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the project “champion.” “And we also want to know about subtle things that can help students successfully complete MOOCs.”
This project is one of seven being explored by a group of mini innovation hubs that are researching questions related to MOOCs and online learning. The hubs are part of an initiative led by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and the Center for 21st Century Universities.
“As luck would have it, when our hub was forming, ME was getting ready to run a special course called ‘The Buzz on Open Online Courses,’” Ferri said. “The students who signed up for the course each took two MOOCs of their choice and were the perfect subjects to help us learn more about our research topic.”
During spring of 2013, 13 students enrolled in a number of MOOCs — ranging from Aboriginal Worldviews and Education offered by the University of Toronto to Introduction to Finance offered by University of Michigan — and completed all assignments.
As part of their participation, the students gave final presentations about their experiences with the MOOCs. There were a number of common themes that students shared:
- Students enjoyed the convenience and ability to “go at your own pace” that MOOCs provide.
- They found technical glitches were particularly frustrating when coupled with the lack of access to a professor.
- Students who had peer-evaluation activities associated with their MOOCs mentioned that they did not like it.
- Many students mentioned the importance of having a good instructor in their MOOCs. They commented on instructors’ “enthusiasm,” “expertise,” and “care for their students’ learning.”
- Many commented that they wanted/needed to see the professors’ heads in the inset box on the computer screen.
- The students said forums are an important part of the success of MOOCs, but they must be managed to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio. Assigning expert personnel to monitor the message boards is crucial in making effective use of this medium.
- Students indicated variety is important, even in a world of six-minute modules. They reacted very positively to mixing lectures with demos, interviews, outside videos, etc.
- The consensus among the students was that they liked the MOOCs as a way to gain exposure to a new subject area or to review a topic they had already studied, but they acknowledged that the rigor and depth of most of the courses were not up to the level found in their Tech face-to-face classes.
The hub is taking the information gained from the students and will continue their research in the months to come.
“The study that we did in the spring semester showed what sorts of things a MOOC developer could do to encourage students to stay engaged, and what mistakes can discourage or frustrate students,” Ferri said. “But we need to know much more about what drives a student to complete a MOOC, why the attrition rate is so high in MOOCs, and why completion and pass rates in face-to-face classes are so much higher in
Georgia Tech’s dean of computing Zvi Galil expressed similar glee when he said in an interview, “You know there is a revolution going on, right?” Source: Forbes
The fast-developing world of massive open online courses (MOOC’s) has a new framework today with the announcement of a partnership among ten state university systems and public universities – including the University System of Georgia – and one of the leading platforms for MOOC’s, Coursera. MORE »
When Georgia Tech launched its first massive open online course (MOOC) last summer, the campus community had plenty of questions about the ramifications for teaching and learning at the Institute.
The response? Seven groups of faculty, staff, and students, called “mini innovation hubs,” were formed. These groups have been busy defining their research questions and exploring how to address them. Members of six of the seven hubs presented their progress during a showcase a few weeks ago.
“The requirements for the mini innovation hubs were simple,” said Donna Llewellyn, director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and associate vice provost for Learning Excellence. “Each group exploring a research question needed a faculty champion and a group of people interested in exploring the topic. The organizers did not tell the groups what questions to ask.”
Llewellyn is leading the initiative with Mike McCracken, director of Online Course Development and Innovation for the Center for 21st Century Universities; Wendy Newstetter, senior academic professional in the College of Engineering; and Lauren Margulieux, graduate student assistant in the School of Psychology.
The seven hubs are considering the following topics and questions:
- Dual Use: What are the special issues of using a MOOC to flip or blend a course? Champion — Bonnie Ferri, Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Delivery Mechanisms: How can mixed- reality technologies be used to enhance MOOC learning and on-campus courses? Champion — Racel Williams, Architecture
- Physics Labs: How can a physical science lab experience be designed for students in a MOOC or other online learning environment? Champion — Ed Greco, Physics
- Library Support: How can the Library provide resources in a MOOC? Champions — Lori Critz, Library; and Cari Lovins, Information Technology
- Motivation: What are the issues associated with keeping students engaged and involved in a MOOC? Champion — Al Ferri, Mechanical Engineering
- Math Bridge: Can a MOOC environment help Tech to efficiently and effectively serve incoming students who need a bridge course to ensure success in their first math course? Champion — Shannon Dobranski, Center for Academic Success
- Multidisciplinary: How can an online environment be harnessed to offer a truly multi-disciplinary course addressing the challenging issues of today? Champion — Katja Weber, International Affairs
The May showcase was the first update from the hubs, and the research is continuing.
“This is not a closed process,” Llewellyn said. “These mini hubs don’t have fences around them. They are open to other people becoming involved.”
Anyone interested in working with a hub should contact the group’s champion.
The videotaped presentations from the showcase are available here.
The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing announced today that it will offer the first professional Online Master of Science degree in computer science (OMS CS) that can be earned completely through the “massive online” format. The degree will be provided in collaboration with online education leader Udacity Inc. and AT&T.
All OMS CS course content will be delivered via the massive open online course (MOOC) format, with enhanced support services for students enrolled in the degree program. Those students also will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional on-campus master’s programs; total tuition for the program is initially expected to be below $7,000. A pilot program, partly supported by a generous gift from AT&T, will begin in the next academic year. Initial enrollment will be limited to a few hundred students recruited from AT&T and Georgia Tech corporate affiliates. Enrollment is expected to expand gradually over the next three years.
“Georgia Tech’s vision is to define the technological research university of the 21st century. We will explore technologies and instructional approaches that will improve our role as a leading provider of the best and most effective education in the state of Georgia, the nation and the world,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech has been involved in online education for more than 30 years, and in the past year has taken a national leadership role in massive open online courses. Offering a master’s degree in this format is the next step in expanding Georgia Tech’s online offerings.
“We are thrilled to be able to join with Udacity and AT&T in taking this bold next step,” Bras said. “We are proud of the visionary role of Dean Zvi Galil in the creation of this degree offering from our nationally renowned College of Computing.”
“We are excited to team with Georgia Tech, whose College of Computing offers CS degrees of the very highest caliber. AT&T is a champion for innovation in education, and we are grateful for its vision in supporting this endeavor,” said Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun. “Udacity has been at the forefront of innovation in online pedagogy. We hope our work with Georgia Tech and AT&T will induce transformational change in higher education.”
The OMS CS could help address the nation’s growing shortage of qualified workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, one of the primary reasons AT&T decided to lend its financial support. The company also supports vastly expanding the accessibility and lowering the cost of quality education.
“Because of this collaboration, anyone with a broadband connection will have access to some of the finest computer science instruction in the world,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. “We believe that high-quality and 100 percent online degrees can be on par with degrees received in traditional on-campus settings, and that this program could be a blueprint for helping the United States address the shortage of people with STEM degrees, as well as exponentially expand access to computer science education for students around the world.”
Said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: “Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have quickly become one of the most significant catalysts of innovation in higher education. As parents know all too well, America urgently needs new ideas about how to make higher education accessible and affordable. This new collaboration between Georgia Tech, AT&T and Udacity, and the application of the MOOC concept to advanced-degree programs, will further the national debate—pushing from conversations about technology to new models of instruction and new linkages between higher education and employers.”
While courses related to the OMS CS will be available free of charge on the Udacity site, only those students granted admission to Georgia Tech will receive credit. Degree-seeking students will pay tuition based either on individual courses or the entire degree program. Georgia Tech and Udacity also will develop a separate credential for those students who successfully complete courses but do not qualify for full graduate standing.
“The OMS CS will set a new agenda for higher education—real, rigorous and marketable graduate education in computer science will now be available to tens, even hundreds of thousands of additional students around the world,” said Zvi Galil, John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech. “Computing is the catalytic field of the 21st century. Now we could potentially double the number of trained computing professionals worldwide in as little as a decade.”
Additional details on the Georgia Tech OMS CS can be found at www.omscs.gatech.edu
About Georgia Tech
The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities, the Institute enrolls 21,500 students within its six colleges. Georgia Tech is a national and international leader in scientific and technological research and education and is the nation's leading producer of engineers as well as a leading producer of female and minority engineering Ph.D. graduates. Holding more than 848 patents and receiving approximately $689 million in research and development expenditures, Georgia Tech ranks among the nation's top ten universities (without a medical school) in research expenditures. Visit www.gatech.edu for more information.
About the Georgia Tech College of Computing
The Georgia Tech College of Computing is a national leader in the creation of real-world computing breakthroughs that drive social and scientific progress. With its graduate program ranked 10th nationally by U.S. News and World Report, the College’s unconventional approach to education is defining the new face of computing by expanding the horizons of traditional computer science students through interdisciplinary collaboration and a focus on human-centered solutions. For more information about the Georgia Tech College of Computing, its academic divisions and research centers, visit http://www.cc.gatech.edu
Udacity is a Silicon Valley-based start-up that brings accessible, engaging and effective higher education to the world. We believe that higher education is a basic human right, and we seek to empower our students to develop their skills in order to advance their education and careers. Udacity has been at the forefront of developing new online pedagogy that bridges education and employable skills with courses in computer science, mathematics, programming, general sciences, and entrepreneurship at www.udacity.com
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and internationally. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s largest 4G network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile Internet, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T |DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.
Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com/aboutus or follow our news on @ATT, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/att and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/att
The President’s Update, now available online, provides a high-level overview of Georgia Tech’s impact, as well as research, innovation, student, faculty, and staff accomplishments. Page eight includes information about C21U's role in launching Georgia Tech MOOCs.
“The update provides an opportunity to recap some of the outstanding things that the people of Georgia Tech have accomplished this academic year,” Peterson said. “However, for every example given, there are dozens of others that could have been included. It is the collective work of all of our outstanding faculty, staff, students, and alumni that makes Georgia Tech the outstanding institution it is today.”
Lectures are among the worst possible teaching formats, Georgia Institute of Technology professor Richard DeMillo said in a lecture on Tuesday. DeMillo, a former Hewlett-Packard chief technology officer, discussed the benefits of online learning and technology in classrooms, arguing that many universities face harsh consequences if they do not adapt to the shifting landscape of higher education.
Read the entire article here.
The following interview is with Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech, and a distinguished professor in the College of Computing. DeMillo, who has experience in both the private sector and university management, is a leading thinker when it comes to the future of higher education. In this interview, DeMillo explains how the number of institutions will change in 50 years’ time, and what it will take for institutions today to survive the coming period of change.
In some ways, MOOCs are not that different from a large lecture course, where a professor might give presentations to a class of 300 students, said Tucker Balch (Interactive Comp). Source: Athens Banner-Herald
Part of a partnership with Georgia Tech, Gwinnett Tech’s Health Information Technology (HIT Certificate program launched on February 25. Stemming from a $1.65 million U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration grant, the program offers tuition stipends for veterans, the underemployed, and the unemployed to boost job creation in the HIT field. C21U's Paul M.A. Baker, Keith Bujak, and Hua Ai have been part of the research team contributing to the development of the program.
Georgia Tech has recently announced the appointment of a new executive leadership team for Georgia Tech Professional Education. Four scholars and education professionals, under the leadership of Dr. Nelson Baker, will lead the Institute’s global Professional Education programs and initiatives. The appointments complement Georgia Tech’s mission to be leaders in improving the human condition in Georgia, the United States, and around the globe.
“Georgia Tech Professional Education seeks to define and be the 21st century transformational leader in professional education,” said Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education. “The executive team will define new ways to meet global industry needs, and apply cutting-edge research to aid in the education for individuals of multiple generations and their employers.”
In addition to Baker, the Georgia Tech Professional Education executive leadership team is comprised of:
- Dr. Leo Mark, associate dean for academic programs and student affairs
- Patrice Miles, assistant dean of business operations
- Dr. Mark Weston, associate dean of learning systems.
- Diane Lee, director of development and interim director of Georgia Tech-Savannah
Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Student Affairs
Dr. Leo Mark leads Georgia Tech Professional Education as the new associate dean for academic programs and student affairs. Through this position, he collaborates with faculty and the Georgia Tech community to develop world class academic professional education programs. He also serves as a voice for students enrolled in the division's programs, and oversees all academic offerings including professional master’s degrees, the Georgia Tech Language Institute, and student affairs.
A familiar face within the Georgia Tech community, Mark has been an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing (CoC) since 1992. Prior to joining the Institute, he taught at Aarhus University in Denmark, the University of Maryland, and worked with many private companies. Mark earned both his M.S. and Ph.D. from Aarhus University in Denmark.
Assistant Dean of Business Operations
Patrice Miles is the newly appointed assistant dean of business operations. Miles works hand in hand with Professional Education's executive team to align the division's strategic business objectives for academic programs, while creating and sustaining effective processes to support superior customer service. She oversees and manages the business/finance, communications, human resources, IT, marketing, operations, and space rental sales departments. Additionally, Miles collaborates with campus leaders and faculty members to develop new business models to drive the expansion and growth of Professional Education programs.
Miles most recently served as the director of marketing and sales for Professional Education from 2007-2012. Before joining Georgia Tech, she had a successful career of more than 20 years with Delta Air Lines serving as their vice president of consumer marketing. Miles graduated with a B.A. from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, with additional course work at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va.
Associate Dean of Learning Systems
Dr. Mark Weston has been appointed the associate dean of learning systems. His responsibilities include developing and implementing technological solutions and learning management systems to create a better environment for students and industry partners – whether in the classroom, online, or in a blended format. He directs the division's online, instructional design, registration, educational logistics, and new program development departments.
Previously, Weston served as the global education strategist for Dell, Inc., and was the senior national manager for strategic educational initiatives at Apple, Inc. In addition, he has worked with many governmental agencies including the Education Commission of the States, United States Department of Education, and the United States House of Representatives. Weston has taught at the University of Colorado-Denver and at Long Island University. He earned a B.S.S. from Cornell College, M.S.E. from Drake University, and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado-Denver (UCD).
Director of Development & Interim Director of Georgia Tech-Savannah
Diane Lee has been appointed interim director of the Georgia Tech-Savannah campus, the Institute’s newest focal point for professional education curriculum. As interim director, Lee is charged with handling campus operations, while working closely with community and business leaders to assess the educational needs of Coastal Georgia and surrounding regions. Lee is also responsible for the development and implementation of a comprehensive fundraising strategy for Georgia Tech Professional Education, including oversight of philanthropy, business development, community relations, alumni relations, board development, and corporate relations. She has been with Georgia Tech since 2007.
Before joining Georgia Tech, Lee worked in senior leadership and fundraising capacities for healthcare, non-profit, and Fortune 50 companies. She has an extensive background in strategic planning, business development, acquisitions, and finance.
At the beginning of spring semester 2013, C21U relocated to newly renovated space on the second floor in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building. In addition to office space and conference room facilities, C21U's new location includes a large event space known as the "Unconference Room," which will be used for Unconferences, as well as other large meetings and classes.
When Georgia Tech announced its partnership with Coursera six months ago, “MOOC” was a new acronym to many. But a lot has changed since then.
“We are getting calls about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, during yesterday’s town hall on online learning. “We’ve made a significant impact in a short period of time, and this is a source of tremendous pride for Georgia Tech.”
Through Coursera, an online learning platform that has partnered with Tech and other premier institutions to offer free courses for the general public, Georgia Tech has created eight massive open online courses (MOOCs), which currently have a combined enrollment of 162,133 students.
Additionally, the Gates Foundation recently awarded funding to develop three general education courses — English Composition, Physics 101 and Introductory Psychology. Some 10 to 15 other courses are also under development.
During the town hall, members of the audience had an opportunity to share their comments, questions and concerns regarding MOOCs.
Mark Braunstein, a professor of the practice in the School of Interactive Computing, is currently developing a Coursera course titled “Health Informatics in the Cloud.” He shared that creating the course had required more work than he initially expected and that he’d found himself putting a lot of thought into how to teach the material in a way that would be clear and compelling.
Bras stressed that professors should embrace creativity when it comes to engaging students, even if it means incorporating technologies into lectures that they may not be familiar with.
For example, if someone wanted to use animations in his lessons but didn’t have the subject matter knowledge to create them, he could ask the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) or the Division of Professional Education for help, Bras said.
Another member of the audience expressed concern about how faculty members would be compensated for the time they invested in creating and delivering MOOCs.
“There is no question that at least initially the work required to create a quality course in this new format is significant,” Bras said.
Those interested in developing a MOOC should first consult with their school chair or supervisor. C21U can evaluate each offering and determine the appropriate support to make it possible for the professor to participate.
“It is clear, though, that these are experiments and educational research that require the individual’s self-interest and commitment,” Bras added. “As we learn, the development of this type of course will be easier. Furthermore, when MOOCs yield revenues from use outside of GT, the professor, his or her unit and the Institute will benefit. In addition, Georgia Tech’s promotion and tenure processes value educational innovation and experimentation with impact. Educational efforts of faculty are always valued.”
The audience was also curious about how Georgia Tech could use MOOCs to positively impact the on-campus community.
Bras explained that his office has provided a small grant, “Learning from MOOCs,” to the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) to facilitate five teams, or “mini innovation hubs,” that will examine questions such as this one.
Over the course of one to two years, each hub, which will be comprised of faculty members and students, will research a question or challenge related to MOOCs (or more generally, technology-enhanced education), which might include, for example, how to take a course designed for a small class and modify it for a MOOC or how to assess MOOCs using qualitative feedback.
During a November event, more than 80 participants brainstormed ideas that could be the basis of one of the questions or challenges that the hubs will examine. The event was organized by Donna Llewellyn of CETL, Michael McCracken of C21U and Wendy Newstetter of the College of Engineering.
“It is really exciting to see the enthusiasm for exploring these types of issues related to learning and teaching,” Llewellyn said. “The research mindset that we all expect to see in the technical arenas is being used to investigate how we can answer interesting questions related to higher education today.”
By the close of the November event, a set of 10 potential research ideas had been established, each with a “champion” charged with carrying it forward. Each of these champions has been asked to provide one or two paragraphs about their proposed question/issue by the end of finals week. The leaders of the project will then meet with each group to help them plan their next steps.
Faculty who are interested in learning more about the hubs should contact Donna Llewellyn.
Those interested in teaching a Coursera course should click here.
Dr. Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been named to Coursera’s University Advisory Board. Bras is one of nine senior academic officials named to the panel, the company’s first advisory board. Each member represents a university partnered with Coursera to offer free massive open online courses (MOOCs).
As a board member, Bras will advise Coursera on strategic academic and business decisions that relate to Coursera’s mission of offering top-quality academic content to students everywhere. The group will consult with Coursera leadership and advise the company on a variety of matters, including the selection of additional partner institutions, selection and provision of new content, legal and regulatory issues and other major questions of company policy that affect the partner institutions.
"Coursera is dedicated to creating better educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom, and we could not do it without the blessing and commitment of our university partners," said Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller.
Bras said Georgia Tech is committed to continuing its leadership in higher education.
"We relentlessly seek to improve our residential education and to share with others in the U.S. and the rest of the world some of the educational content and know-how that makes us unique and excellent," said Bras. "This commitment is aligned with Coursera's mission, and we are happy to be their partner. I personally look forward to helping Coursera and all our partner institutions charter the way to a successful revolution in the use of technology in higher education," he said.
"We're fortunate to have the insight of these highly-respected academics in guiding Coursera’s development toward our shared goal of providing a high-quality education to everyone around the world," added co-founder, Andrew Ng.
Georgia Tech signed an agreement with Coursera last July to put its web-based courses online and create new opportunities for hands-on learning in the classroom. The first course, Computational Investing Part I, began in October with nearly 50,000 enrolled students. Enrollment is currently open for seven other Georgia Tech classes at https://www.coursera.org/gatech.
About Coursera: Coursera is on a mission to change the world by educating millions of people by offering classes from top universities and professors online for free. Coursera's comprehensive education platform combines mastery-based learning principles with video lectures, interactive content and a global community of peers, offering students from around the world a unique online learning experience. Coursera has partnered with top-tier universities to provide courses across a broad range of disciplines, including medicine, literature, history and computer science, among others. Coursera is backed by leading venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates. For more information, visit Coursera.org.
With a $150,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Georgia Institute of Technology will develop three massive open online courses (MOOCs) targeted at those who have yet to pursue or complete a college degree. Unlike many existing MOOCs, which tend to feature advanced topics, the new courses will cover introductory topics in the subjects of English composition, physics and psychology. Each will be available free through Coursera and is scheduled to begin in January 2013.
The Georgia Tech Research Corporation received the grant, and will work with the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), the College of Sciences and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts to develop the innovative online learning courses.
“These Gates Foundation awards address one of higher education’s most pressing problems: bending the cost curve and improving learning outcomes for introductory courses,” said Rich DeMillo, director of C21U. “The Georgia Tech courses being funded by these grants all represent innovation in pedagogy, teaching and technology. If we are successful, courses like these will be a shift in both quality and cost for the vast majority of American college students.”
Professor Rebecca Burnett and Assistant Professor Karen Head in the School of Literature, Media and Communication will lead First-Year Composition 2.0. School of Physics Professor Michael Schatz will offer Your World is Your Laboratory: College-Level Introductory Physics, and School of Psychology Professor Emeritus Anderson Smith will lead Introduction to Psychology as a Science.
“MOOCs are an exciting innovation. They hold great promise but are not without challenges, and we are still discovering their full potential,” said Dan Greenstein, director of Postsecondary Success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We believe having diverse options for faculty and students that meet a wide array of learning needs and styles can enhance student engagement, improve educational outcomes and increase college completion rates. We are eager to learn from and share the data that will be generated from these investments in MOOCs.”
Earlier this year, Georgia Tech announced a partnership with Coursera to offer online courses. Currently, registration is open for eight courses led by Georgia Tech professors. The courses have a combined enrollment of more than 140,000 students. The first class, Computational Investing, Part 1, began in October.
Sitting in front of a camera and giving a lecture to students you can’t see is intimidating. This is just one of the things that Tucker Balch has learned about the process of teaching a massive open online course (or MOOC) through Coursera.
“One of the reasons I enjoy teaching in front of students is because I can see if they’re getting the material, but lecturing online is like diagnosing an illness over the Internet. It’s a challenge,” said Balch, an associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing. “Instead of gauging reactions, I really have to pay attention to the online forums to see if people understand.”
In late October, Balch began teaching Georgia Tech’s first free class on Coursera to more than 40,000 students, ranging from retirees to high schoolers, around the world.
The course, Computational Investing Part I, runs eight weeks and focuses on how modern electronic financial markets work, why stock prices change and how computation can help people to better understand these issues. (Learn more about the course here.)
Balch’s interest in teaching a MOOC began last year after hearing that other institutions were offering them. He approached Rich DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), about teaching one, and the rest is history.
“I’ve had colleagues tell me that there’s much less support for teaching these types of courses at other universities,” Balch said. “I’m really proud of Georgia Tech for being bold enough to give this a try.”
Although Balch thinks that the ideal teaching environment is still a single professor teaching 20 to 30 students face-to-face, he also thinks MOOCs have a place in higher education.
“For example, teaching these courses allows us to reach a wider audience — including millions of people in India and China,” he said. “And it’s also a great marketing tool to reach high school students who might one day attend Tech.”
Balch selected the course topic because it’s fairly new, and he wanted to be one of the first to teach a course about it. The information taught in this class is based on a class that Balch teaches at Tech, which he has broken into two parts for Coursera. Each week, students view two modules, with each module being made up of four 5- to 12-minute lectures.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that lectures need to be broken up into short chunks of time, because it’s easier for students to process the material,” Balch said.
To keep students engaged, he tries to use visuals, such as pictures, as much as possible. In the future, Balch also plans to integrate interviews with people who work in investing fields (such as hedge fund managers and stock traders) into the lectures.
Students take weekly multiple-choice quizzes and complete optional code-writing projects throughout the course to assess their learning, and projects are peer graded by students in the class.
When it comes to cheating, Balch isn’t as concerned with the issue as he might be with a for-credit course.
“They have nothing to gain by cheating,” he said. “I suppose they could, but that would be like jumping to the end of a good book and skipping the good parts in the middle.”
The estimated workload for students is about five to seven hours per week. At the end of the not-for-credit course, all students receive a certificate of completion from C21U.
Although Balch has taught distance learning courses in the past, one of the things that was a surprise to him about teaching a MOOC is the amount of time he has needed to put into it.
“Multiply your estimate of time you’ll put into it by two,” he said. “I have spent about 15 to 20 hours a week on this course, because it takes time to make my material online-friendly. But I also realize that when I offer the course next semester, it won’t take up as much time, because I’m not starting from scratch.”
On Jan. 28, Balch will offer the course again, and several other Tech Coursera courses will also kick off. For more information about the Institute’s offerings, click here.