The Udacity Partnership

Earlier today the UofA signed a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with Udacity to develop a research partnership about MOOCs (massive open online courses). In a MOOC, the entire course is done online, for free. You may or may not get some kind of credit for participating and completing it; you may have to pay for a certificate. So far, you can't use these MOOCs for credit towards an actual degree.

This morning at 10:00, a group of instructors, researchers, and administrators met with Sebastian Thrun, who cofounded Udacity. (Yes, this is one of the "secret projects" I'm currently involved in. Now it's not a secret anymore.) Thrun, who gave a talk about MOOCs on campus last month, showed us his content creation system, which runs as an iPad app. Even in pre-alpha, it was pretty slick, allowing videos, sketches, and interactive quizzes to be put together to create a course, which can also be "consumed" via an i-device.

MOOCs raise many important questions about pedagogy (the "science of education"), instruction, interactivity, and the role of universities. We're thinking about those. But the reason I'm writing this post is to get the view of students on MOOCs.

What do you think about free, online courses? Would you take one? Why? What would you want to get from it? Would it help your mom learn about psychology (or whatever your major is)? Or for your younger sister in high school, who hasn't decided what topic to study in post-secondary education (much less her future career)? Would you take it to supplement what you're learning in your in-person, for-credit class? Or would you want to get your whole degree online, instead of going to meat-space classes? (Hmm, isn't that already available?)

Why aren't you studying?


Amy said...

I think this is a fantastic idea! As a child who was perpetually asking "why?", I love learning in any form, and I just want to know everything about everything. There are SO many courses I'd love to take in university, for no particular reason other than "I want to learn more about the topic". But unfortunately, if you're not made of money, then taking a ton of random classes just beacuse isn't very feasible. Free online courses could easily fix that problem :)

Vanessa said...

I too think that this is a great idea. I didn't know what direction to take when I was entering university, and changed programs after my first year. The best way for me to narrow down my options was to get experience in different areas and realize what I did and didn't enjoy.

Similarly to what Amy has said, I was lucky enough to be able to transfer all of my credits to my new program. Others may not be so lucky, or might not be able to afford to take an extra year in figuring out where they want to go. These courses would be a great way to spark interest, and to provide people with opinions on various topics without spending all of their college savings.

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