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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

GWU Takes Different Approach to MOOCs

There’s been pushback on some campuses as to the development of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Faculty have banded together to block initiatives, faculty unions have raised concerns, and a new report from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education criticizes corporate interests in driving MOOC adoption.

George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is taking a different approach. It’s working with faculty members from the start to develop a MOOC program.

“We see MOOCs as a way of empowering faculty who are interested in reaching a very different audience than they’re used to,” Paul Schiff Berman, vice provost for online education and academic innovation at GWU, told eCampus News. “Our approach to MOOCs has not engendered any kind of faculty backlash, which I’m happy to say.”

The university has not partnered with any of the major MOOC platform providers. Berman has kept interested professors in the loop when it comes to the online platforms and has no plans to require instructors to participate.

GWU faculty members seem to appreciate the more cautious approach. Professors have expressed interest in working on courses, even though some remain unconvinced on the topic of MOOCs.

“In general, there’s an effort to move more organically and be a little skeptical of MOOCs,” said GWU English professor Margaret Soltan, who has taught a MOOC hosted by the Udemy platform. “It’s always good to be skeptical of all the rage.”

In addition to including faculty from the get-go, there has been no discussion about giving credit for MOOCs offered by GWU. Berman insists it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

“We don’t see it as a way of replacing our in-person programs or something that would be credit-bearing,” he said. “There’s absolutely no move toward using these courses to generate revenue, nor will there be.”

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