Faculty are teaching more on-campus courses with online components. They’re exploring new ways of packaging online content for different audiences with varied needs. And they’re asking the big questions about where online is going and what it means for education itself. “MOOCs are just the tip of the iceberg,” said John Mitchell, professor of computer science and Stanford’s first vice provost for online learning. “One of the great things about online technology is we can produce one kind of material, a video, an interactive session, an experimental laboratory that is online, and use it in multiple different ways. We’re evolving our way of presenting educational material.” Since January 2012, Mitchell said, 64 courses have been taught fully or partially online by 48 different faculty members using one of three new platforms: Coursera, Class2Go or Venture Lab. Some of this online coursework was for on-campus students, and some was packaged as MOOCs for the broader world. Free public courses have drawn approximately 2 million student registrations over the last year. Close to 1 million individuals have watched online videos as part of a Stanford MOOC, and an estimated 100,000 have completed all the coursework associated with these challenging online courses. These numbers are in addition to the tens of thousands of students receiving online coursework through existing programs not using these new platforms.
Not all faculty have embraced online technology, of course, and many have questions about its uses and implications. However, many things have been learned as online course delivery methods are tested. For instance:
- Online technology is not just for distance learners. It can be used to enhance education for on-campus students, too, because providing lecture material by video in advance can free up classroom time for more interactive discussion.
- Experimentation with online education has stimulated new faculty discussions about teaching and learning itself.
- Online technology can enhance flexibility for both instructors and students, allowing students to absorb lecture material at their own pace and allowing instructors to archive and update their course content.
- Online education will need to take many different forms to address the educational needs of different audiences. Faculty should explore a variety of options for building out the online experience: including online versions of discussion sections and office hours, more personalized learning opportunities and the development of course “modules” that can be used more interchangeably than full courses.
- MOOCs offer new opportunities to learn about learning itself. MOOCs can also bring Institutions to new populations of students, including those in developing countries and many who are working full time.
- Despite online offerings, there remains a critical place for a residential undergraduate education. In many cases it is prudent to supplement and extend activities on campus to make being a resident student an even richer educational experience.
- The data generated through online courses and the larger questions that online education poses for higher education itself offer a rich set of research opportunities for education researchers.
Source: Tomorrows Professor