MOOC Around The World, Part 5 – Independent MOOCs for Independent Travelers
Welcome back to our MOOC Around the World Series in which I’m trying to identify all the open online courses outside of the most familiar U.S. platforms. In parts one, two and three, I found plenty of classes to visit outside of North America entirely and in part four I surveyed all the classes I could find in Canada before finally turning my attention to American MOOCs that are on smaller platforms or entirely independent of any platform.
If you’ve been reading along, you might have noticed a special kind of MOOC mixed in there — classes offered by organizations other than a university. In fact, the first MOOCs I took were independent in that sense, organized by groups of open education resource activists.
Even though most of the media coverage of MOOCs summarize them as “elite university classes for free,” MOOCs have a much broader scope. It’s not just elite universities, and in reality, there’s nothing to keep a museum, a nonprofit organization, a trade association, a single business — large or small — or even just some individual from using free online course builder tools to create their own MOOC. As Robert McGuire, the editor of this site, has said in the past, MOOCs mean not only that anyone in the world be a learner but than anyone in the world can be a teacher. Not only can we all take a class from Harvard but we can all can put up a class next to Harvard’s and see if it finds an audience.
Well, through most of this series I included independent MOOCs without a university affiliation along the way, but in the U.S. there are enough of them that I’m listing them in this separate article. So before I leave American MOOCs behind and head home for a rest (yes, there is a part six to this journey in the works), let’s take another quick dash around the country, shall we?
As before, I’ll include MOOCs that are already concluded to give a sense of the larger MOOC landscape.
You might remember Instreamia from my previous articles where I mentioned it as a source for learning Spanish, which would have helped me greatly during my MOOC journey. 😉 Or maybe you read this interview with the founders of the Instreamia adaptive learning platform. As they discussed, they are an example of a small startup business using the MOOC concept both to provide a service to their customers and to demonstrate their product, which in their case is a language learning software.
They’ve offered two open classes so far. The first was SpanishMOOC, an undergraduate-level course in communicating through listening, speaking, reading and writing. It is known as one of the first MOOCs for teaching a foreign language. Originally it was run as a “synchronous progression” course, but now it is offered in a self-paced format. SpanishMooc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Instreamia’s other open class was LTMOOC, a collaborative course for language teachers of all levels to discuss and gain a deeper understanding of emerging trends in blended teaching and learning of world languages, including methodology, best practices and practical applications. Though LTMOOC already ended, running from April 15 to May 27, I am sure we can expect more from Instreamia.
Aquent LLC is at the other end of the business spectrum, a large employment agency that links contractors with companies, mainly in marketing, creative and digital firms. Alison Farmer, Aquent’s V.P. of learning and development states that, “We’ve learned that if you want to meet the needs of the rapidly changing market and do great work, you have to continuously adapt to new media, new technologies, new possibilities.” Last year Aquent offered The Summer of Learning 2012 MOOC to meet this skills gap by training. The Summer of Learning MOOC focused mainly on teaching HTML 5 skills.
This year, Aquent shifted their MOOC initiative under the brand of Aquent Gymnasium, which started in June. The platform is being built with Rocketcourse by Tott Labs, a Boston-area developer that will also host the classes. Aquent Gymnasium says it will offer free open online courses in the most in-demand creative skills and digital technologies, using experienced practitioners to teach them. Aquent hopes the courses will serve three purposes: help expand its pool of job candidates, help establish Aquent as a value-added service provider and raise Aquent’s profile with potential employers. Aquent plans to add a new course to Gymnasium each month during the year on subjects such as “Time-saving Tricks for Jquery” and “Responsive Web Design.”
Currently, Coding for designers, also known as “Turn Your Comps Into Code and Be the Designer Developers Love to Work With” will be the first class. This free course will show you how to apply visual design tools and concepts to web and mobile projects. The free course is intended for experienced design professionals. However, no coding experience is necessary. How to troubleshoot code problems or how to better work with your developers are some topics of the course.
Another type of independent MOOC we can expect to see more of will be offered by trade associations or chambers of commerce for the benefit of their members. One recent example is from West Virginia’s Network for Education (WVNET), a government office that provides telecommunications and computing services to that state’s community college system. This summer, they offered a class on Software Defined Networking titled SDN-OPS. SDN is a new networking technologies and should be of great interest to people involved with computer networking. SDN-OPS was a free MOOC open to anyone. Each weekly lesson included presentations, reference materials and hands-on labs from industry experts. Users had the opportunity to work in a lab environment that enabled them to create their own SDN.
Performing arts organizations are using MOOCs to engage with their audiences in different ways, for example by providing a music appreciation class in advance of a performance. The Ojai Music Festival and Spring for Music orchestra festival are two examples of this, both of them involving Douglas McLennan, the founder and editor of ArtsJournal, as an instructor.
Spring for Music offered a MOOC titled How To Listen To Orchestras. Ojai offered a MOOC titled Music in Place, Music in Space: What’s the Idea? Using the music and ideas behind the 2013 Ojai Music Festival as examples, the course explored music’s role in contemporary culture. Each class consisted of a series of short videos plus exercises where participants listened to musical samples for details and to compare what they heard. In both MOOCs, wikis, discussion forums and social media allowed members to participate and to discuss the topics.
MOOC meets Learning 2.0
Marginal Revolution University, MRUniversity, is an online education website led by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, economics professors at George Mason University and bloggers at Marginal Revolution. Their first free online class about development economics started October 2012, and there are now six classes on subjects like Mexico’s Economy and American Housing Finance. Courses include interactive comments and videos that are freely accessible to all and that can be used in your own course content, which makes them a truly open education resource. (For more on the debate about what the first O in MOOC means, see “What is a Massive Open Online Course Anyway?”) The videos are structured as simple PowerPoint slide presentations with voice-overs by the speakers. Only those who formally register for a course and take the final examination can get a certificate of completion.
Blended Schools Network (BSN) is a non-profit network of schools, faculty and learners focused on online learning. Their first five-week MOOC, Today’s Blended Teacher: A MOOC Made for Community and Curation, ran April 15 to May 20. SoftChalk Cloud and the Google Plus platform were used to deliver the MOOC. It was free to all and designed to help teachers improve their curation of online learning materials and strengthen their professional networks. All technologies were free to use for participants. In the spirit of a cMOOC this class was designed around collaboration and connecting participants rather than just delivering knowledge. A certificate was rewarded for completing it.
Finally, a MOOC that covers the subject I teach at vocational school. Health Informatics Forum definitely sounds interesting. However, this online health class is focused on U.S. healthcare and public health systems, thus some topics are not necessarily transferable to other countries, but it is nevertheless interesting. It has 16 components, each with a number of narrated Flash lectures and a series of online class discussions.
The Health Informatics Forum is a social networking website, administered by Dr. Chris Paton for health informatics professionals and students from around the world. Though it started about ten months ago, it seems to be a self-paced course and people are free to start at any time. You need to be a member of Health Informatics Forum to add comments to the discussion forums associated with each lecture. Approximately every four weeks a new component is activated. So far, ten components are available, all released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The course materials have been developed by several Universities, among others the Columbia University, Duke University and Oregon Health through a $10 million grant from the ONC.
Hybrid Pedagogy is a journal of praxis that experiments with running MOOCS. The first class to emerge from that community was the original MOOC MOOC, followed by Twitter vs. Zombies, Digital Writing Month, THATCamp Hybrid Pedagogy and, most recently, MOOCification MOOCathon (which was a 24-hour long experiment). All of these were cMOOC style explorations of MOOC pedagogy and possibilities.
Other independent MOOC resources
MOOCs continue to mushroom. During my time working on this series so far, many classes have come and gone, and it is almost impossible to keep up. Therefore, I like to recommend the weekly roundup written on this site, which keeps you informed about upcoming online classes with a special emphasis on independent MOOCs.
And there are a few other resources out there I can recommend for hunting up independent MOOCs.
One, for a quick scan of MOOCs not in English, don’t forget Mooc.es, a Spanish-language search engine I discussed in part two of this series and that helps readers find open online courses in a number languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, German and French.
SyMynd also curates free (and paid) online ed resources with an emphasis on business education. SkilledUp’s learning hubs do something similar with a focus on career skills.
Open Culture considers itself the source for the best free cultural & educational media on the web. Their collection includes over 725 free courses and about 400 free MOOCs from top universities, many offering certificates.
Lastly, we can’t forget MOOC.ca run by Stephen Downes and Georg Siemens or Downes’ Half an hour blog, both providing news and information and an evolving list of International MOOCs past and present.
For now, I come to an end after covering quite a few individual classes and MOOC platforms in Canada and the United States. I am going to take a couple days off, and you might want to use the time to take a closer look at some of these independent online classes.
But I am already making notes for part 6 of this journey, so stay tuned. And, of course, I’m sure I missed a few in the areas I’ve already covered, so please let me know in the comments.