Oregon State University Offers First Free MOOC

Oregon State University will be offering its first massive open online course (MOOC) this fall.

The eight-week course, titled Supporting English Language Learners under New Standards, will help teachers in the efforts to help English language learners be successful in the midst of new standards.

K-12 teachers taking the free course will work together, gathering and analyzing real-world language samples from their own classrooms.  These samples will allow educators to write new curriculum, helping these students to better learn and meet the standards.

While offered at Oregon State University, the course is open to K-12 teachers in all states, and may be especially relevant to those teachers in the ELPA21 consortium (11 states which are creating an assessment system for English Language Learners based on the new standards). The ELPA21 consortium consists of Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia.

“This will help us learn first-hand about this type of teaching platform, and identify how and where MOOCs fit in our learning ecosystem,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Sabah Randhawa. “It’s important to be open to new possibilities, and flexible and adaptable to new learning paradigms, including the MOOC learning format.”

MOOC courses have been the topic of debate in terms of their usefulness in the learning process.  While some believe they will never be as successful as face-to-face learning, others praise their ability to bring technology and learning together.

The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education is concerned that these courses do not offer as much support to its students as the traditional in-person courses do.

Anant Agarwal, chief executive officer for edX answered critics with this statement:

“We are literally giving away our platform for free. At edX, we are focused on people not profit, and we welcome all points of view and dialogue about promoting the advancement of education both online and on campus,”

EdX was founded in 2012 through a partnership of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to the company’s About page, there are currently 53 schools, nonprofits, corporations, and international organizations that offer or plan to offer courses on the edX website.

Oregon State is partnering with Stanford University, the Oregon Department of Education, and Ecampus in the MOOC, the latter of which is offering multimedia and support for the online course.  US News and World Report has called Ecampus one of the best online programs in the nation.

“Delivering a course in this open format goes hand-in-hand with Oregon State’s mission to provide access to high-quality education to learners around the state, country and world,” said Ecampus executive director Lisa L. Templeton. “Ecampus is excited to partner with the College of Education, Stanford and ODE to deliver this with no cost involved for learners.”