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MOOC: Delivering Knowledge

Massive open online courses, available worldwide to anyone, are changing the way education is delivered.
MOOC: Delivering Knowledge

MOOC: Delivering Knowledge

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EdX

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OSU: Farm to Fork

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Rob McClendon: Well, we live in a world of lifetime learning, and nowhere is that more evident than online. Our Austin Moore takes a look at the growing trend of education for education’s sake, thanks in part to the growth in the online courses with the funny name.

Austin Moore: The idea is straightforward: Offer a class, offer it online, make it available to anyone, and accept everyone. Hence the term massive open online course or MOOC. This is a new idea, first emerging in 2008, largely because technology has only now made it practical. But the idea spread like wildfire throughout educational institutions across the globe and has even given rise to private organizations like edX, Coursera and Udacity. Combined, these three alone offered more than 2,500 courses in January of 2016. Throughout this emerging industry, you’ll find courses offered for credit, some of certifications and others simply for the sake of learning. It is no small way the wild, wild west of postsecondary education.

Gary Sandefur: We are in a period of rapid change in higher education right now. And I think it’s wise for major research universities and teaching universities like Oklahoma State University to investigate some of the different options for delivering the knowledge that we have.

Austin: Gary Sandefur is the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma State University, a traditional four-year university which now offers MOOCs.

Sandefur: Part of what we’re trying to do as a land grant university is to be a service to the people of the state and now even more broadly, the people of the world. So a MOOC is a way of making our knowledge and our experience and what we know here available to lots of people throughout the state and throughout the world.

Austin: For their first entry, they turned to agriculture, a strength of OSU academics, asking ag economist Bailey Norwood to design the course.

Bailey Norwood: It’s called “Farm to Fork: A Panoramic View of Agriculture.” And it tries to improve agricultural literacy, describe the science behind modern agriculture and help people appreciate and understand agricultural controversies.

Norwood: I have the actual DNA of Ves Areus here to show you. You can see, this is a really big sheet of paper where all you’ll see are different sequences of four letters.

Austin: This course and the other OSU MOOCs offer three models: OSU students can take the course for credit, anyone can take the course for free, with no credit, but the public can also enroll for correspondence credit.

Norwood: You could be in high school and earn credit. You could be in a nursing home and earn credit. As long as you have an Internet hookup, there are no prerequisites at all. You know, what you see, you are treated exactly like the students here on campus are when they are taking the course.

Sandefur: We have to stay in the game. We have to be working with online education, with MOOCs. We need to be looking at other models, which we are, like with blended classrooms, where you have a lot of the material online, but then you also use the classroom as kind of this active learning experience. So these are all different models that we all need to be exploring and dealing with, and then we will see in the end which ones work out to be affective. Some of them may become a permanent part of higher education, and others may disappear eventually. We just have to be involved in the experimentation.

Austin: Giving a sense of adventure to education and making its online future feel massive and wide open.

Rob: Now, if there is a downside to the whole model of online classes, it may be human nature. Completion rates for MOOCs typically fall between 30 and 40 percent, a fact that is attributed to that without the typical classroom structure, it’s awfully easy not to show up for class.