Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Making use of MOOCs

It seems to me that the Caribbean needs to make more of a major new educational opportunity - MOOCs. MOOC stands for Massive Online Open Course. These courses are available free on the internet and cover a very wide range of subjects. A very interesting example of how new technology can give us new educational possibilities which are truly global. Most courses are designed for the average person and require little or no special knowledge. Some are university level but most are not.

Courses usually last 5-10 weeks with around 4-5 hours work online per week. Common elements include weekly videos, quizzes, forums and reading. Generally they are done by major universities and are of high quality.

So far I have done eight or more and noticed very little Caribbean participation. I have not seen another Guyanese participant just one or two from the Caribbean islands.

Teachers could to do some of these and then encourage students. There are in fact courses for teachers. There are also courses for business people, for students, for engineers, for software developers (many on IT) and for those in the medical field. Participants range from pre-teens (not many I admit) to retirees.

While courses are free you can usually get a certificate if you pay for it.

Personally I have found the experience very rewarding and worthwhile. Courses are popular with young people and with older people. If you have a busy life with little time for browsing then it may not be for you. But you may still find something very relevant to your work which will make it a priority.

Can we do our own MOOCs in the Caribbean? I am sure we will but first we need to make use of what is already there and learn from it. Creating a good MOOC is no small task even for the large universities of N America and Europe.

Popular and well-designed. Good forums. Very wide range of courses. Quality of courses generally very good but depends on the institution providing the content. Takes a while to find your way around.
A few random examples:
Introduction to Finance
Smart Growth for Private Businesses
Women in Leadership
Introduction to Acoustics 
Social Psychology
The Evolving Universe

Very good courses, perhaps slightly more slanted towards academic subjects.
A few random examples:
English Grammar and Style
Introduction to Computer Science
Human Anatomy
Psychology of Criminal Justice

Also very good. More Europe and UK institutions represented. Different forums style. Fairly simple to get started, less complex.
A few random examples:
The Science of Nuclear Energy
Cooperation in the Contemporary World
Preparing for University
The Science of Medicines
Religion and Conflict
Exploring Our Oceans