MOOC: TEACHING TO THE MASSES
Edited version of 3010 Magazine article.
“The more the merrier” is not a phrase often associated with class size, but the increasing popularity of online learning may change that.
The University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education (MGSE) has launched a Massive Open Online Course – or MOOC – on how to give school children the skills to survive in a world of everchanging technology.
More than 15,000 people have enrolled in the course, titled Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills. They are among 500,000 who have enrolled in the University’s MOOCs since it joined international platform Coursera in 2012.
Course co-ordinator Professor Patrick Griffin (BSc 1968, MEd 1976) says the scale is unimaginable for face-to-face teaching. The course has attracted students from 160 different countries, about 50 of which are in Asia. The cohort is highly educated: 9 per cent have doctorates, 38 per cent hold higher degrees, and a further 38 per cent have completed undergraduate degrees.
Like all MOOCs, Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills is offered free and enrolment is open to anyone. While students get the chance to learn from world-leading researchers, the researchers are enthusiastic about the opportunity to share and collaborate with thousands of people.
“In such a new field, harnessing the insights of such a large group is very exciting,” Griffin says. “MOOCs challenge everyone involved – participants and staff – to use and improve their skills in digital learning, which is in itself a 21st-century skill.”
Organisers say they have learnt a lot from running this MOOC and are investigating the prospects of delivery in different languages.
The Federal Government announced a major funding boost of $4.1 million last year for a pilot program designed at improving the literacy and numeracy outcomes of students in remote schools.
While this issue is broad in scope, it is most felt in rural and remote schools where students are more likely to have developmental vulnerabilities – such as lower language and cognitive skills – when they start school.
Minister Birmingham said it was clear there were a range of factors influencing the impact of the program including student attendance, how closely schools are following the course structures and high teacher turnover in regional and remote schools.
The program supports the improvement of literacy results for children in remote primary schools with the introduction of two alphabetic teaching approaches: direct instruction and explicit direct instruction.
The independent evaluation of the program was conducted by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Program Evaluation and will help inform any decisions about the future direction of the program.