The purpose of this blog is to document activities and share ideas as part of a critical look at MOOCs and their relationship to liberal arts education. There is a lot of buzz about how education is one of a number of areas that is currently ripe for disruption by technological innovation. Developments like OpenCourseWare have made educational materials freely available for many years now. However, the ability to have free video distribution through sites like YouTube has opened other doors. Khan Academy aims at giving lessons on many different subjects and quite a few include quizzes and other forms of automatic assessment., some of which are gamified to further motivate students. The arrival of MOOCs in the fall of 2011 introduced another twist with fairly complete models of instruction available to large numbers of people.
In the year since Stanford offered two MOOCs from their CS department, the field has grown by leaps and bounds with many of the top national Universities jumping into the fray. At the time I am writing this, there are nearly 250 MOOC offerings split between Coursera, Udacity, and edX. These offerings include quite a few courses in the Humanities and social sciences as well as the STEM fields. Each MOOC will enroll 10,000+ students from around the world and many will give certificates of completion to those who stick with them and do the required work. While it might not be exactly clear what the future holds for these MOOCs, one thing is clear, change is coming fast.
To help make sense of this change, Trinity University has applied for funding from the ACS to initiate an informed dialog on MOOCs and the liberal arts. To deal with the fact that things are moving so quickly, Trinity has put up funds to get things going before we hear back from the ACS about the proposal. To make sure the dialog is informed, a number of faculty from Trinity and several other ACS institutions have agreed to complete a MOOC and record their experiences and thoughts. This blog will serve as part of the information distribution aspects of this work. readers should also feel free to make comments and contribute to the dialog. In spring 2013 the discussion will move beyond this blog as Trinity hosts video conferences between ACS campuses to help get all faculty thinking about the challenges and opportunities provided by these new modes of education.