Written by Andy Saltarelli, Amy Collier
A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article featured Stanford’s work on the OpenEdX platform and focused on use of the platform as part of a branding strategy. While branding is one of many reasons for using a self-hosted open source platform, it certainly is not our top reason for doing so.
In this post, we want to highlight a different, but central, reason for Stanford’s use of an open source platform: the instructional needs and goals of our faculty.
We begin our story nearly one year ago. School of Medicine Professor Kristin Sainani taught a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Writing in the Sciences on the Coursera platform. She simultaneously taught her Stanford course in a flipped approach, where students watched lecture videos before class and then workshopped each other’s papers during class. We were pleased with how the classes went but, in the post-course surveys for the MOOC, noticed a recurring concern or complaint from students about struggling with collaborative learning requirements because of the peer feedback and editing tools: Continue reading
Written by Dr. Kala Mehta, Dr. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, Annecy Majoros and Nate Gardner
Depression is very common in the US, but there aren’t enough therapists and psychiatrists to address this large need. The American Psychological Association estimates that 17 million adults live with depression in the US, and there are only an estimated 4,000 therapists in the US to provide evidence based treatment, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT has been used to treat a wide variety of psychiatric problems including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression of various levels of severity. There is a strong empirical base in that over 100 randomized trials have been conducted demonstrating the efficacy of this approach – both by itself and in combination with anti-depressant medication. In this course our goal was not to fully train psychotherapists in how to do CBT – that requires hands-on supervision over time – but to introduce CBT to a naïve group of practitioners, give them an opportunity to learn both didactic and hands-on skills, and evaluate whether or not they were using the skills in their clinical practice. Continue reading
Jane Manning, Michael Mcaulife, Kristin Sainani
This summer, Stanford ran a MOOC on “Statistics in Medicine”. This course was oriented towards medical professionals in particular. We looked at completion rates for the course, as well as learning, measured via pre and post tests. The audience for this course was well-prepared (many scoring well on a pre-test), and had fewer “tire-kickers” than may be typical in MOOCs. We found that those who came in with more domain knowledge passed in greater numbers, but those who came in with less knowledge learned more (measuring based on delta between pre and post test scores).
About the course
This was a course that had run on-campus (as a “flipped” class) for medical students the previous quarter, so the material was already prepared, and was available for students at the start of the course. The course was structured with weekly lecture videos, homeworks with a weekly deadline, and a final exam. The final exam became available only at the end of the course (students had an 11-day period in which to complete it), but the homeworks could be worked on ahead of their weekly deadlines. This was our first MOOC to run on Stanford’s instance of the OpenEdX platform.
Video production for this course wasn’t fancy: the instructor used a consumer webcam mounted on a tablet-equipped computer to speak to plain-vanilla slides (made from one of the historical default Powerpoint templates). Continue reading
Jonathan Huang, Jane Manning, Marc Sanders
In an earlier blog post, Manning and Sanders looked at the prevalence of forum posting relative to performance in a collection of Stanford MOOCs offered through Coursera. The blog left some readers curious about how forum posting varied with other demographics such as age and gender of participants. For instance, how old are the participants who post the most? How old are those who post the least? Is gender correlated with posting habits? A quick run of the numbers gave some unexpected results—at least they were unexpected to us. When it comes to posting on MOOC forums, Gen-X/Y/Z-ers take a back seat to Baby Boomers. Continue reading
It’s not yet 7am on any given weekday morning this past year. I’m peering in to a pot of hot cereal, trying to think of creative ways to add more fiber to a child’s gluten free diet. Our days are usually in full swing by 6:15. The lunches are packed and I’m searching for a package of chia seeds, that I’m sure must be there somewhere…
As I remind my eight year old, for the 20th time, to put on his socks and shoes, I’m running through the revisions I’d like to make for the next iterations of the two child nutrition classes I offered this past year. Both classes were the fruits of a 2012 Faculty Seed Grant from Stanford’s Vice Provost for Online Learning. Both were eye-opening and invigorating experiences for me.
This is an exciting and challenging time to be an instructional designer. Universities’ surging interest in online learning—including MOOCs—has created a need for instructional designers in departments where they may not have been wanted or needed before. A few weeks ago at EDUCAUSE’s Breakthrough Models Academy, I heard colleague after colleague note increasing needs for instructional design work and a dearth of qualified instructional designers who fit the bill.
It’s not that schools aren’t training instructional designers; universities across the country offer robust programs on instructional design, educational technology, and other relevant topics. Seasoned instructional designers abound at universities where online learning has been a strategic goal for many years (think schools that have focused on reaching so-called “non-traditional learners” through online learning). But instructional designers are now being asked to expand their work to design for new audiences, new platforms and tools, and as part of new departments—and they are being asked to adapt to these new expectations at break-neck speed. Continue reading
In some MOOCs faculty are highly involved during the course, reading and replying to forum posts, or engaging with the students in other ways. But in some, less so. Students should be told what to expect.
Rob Reich (the Stanford Political Science professor, not the former Secretary of Labor) described a MOOC he signed up for, from a faculty member whose teaching he admired:
Online discussion forums are seen as an important part of the MOOC experience. One current course lists in its opening announcement:
DISCUSSION FORUMS: The discussion forums play a crucial role in massive online courses like this one, which is an all-volunteer effort. If you have trouble understanding a lecture or completing an assignment, you should turn to the forums for help. After you’ve mastered the lectures and assignments for a given week, I hope you’ll contribute to the forums and help out your fellow students. While I won’t have time to carefully monitor the discussion forums, I’ll check in and answer questions whenever I find the time. In previous iterations of this course, students have fostered a fantastic and supportive learning environment.
We wondered if we could learn more about forum usage by looking at the data exports Coursera provides. We didn’t have access to the clickstream data that would tell us about forum views, but had access to data about posts, as well as other data, such as the grades students earned in the course.
Here are some initial exploratory results that we hope will encourage others to dig deeper.
Two often-heard criticisms of MOOCs are their high attrition rate and their unsatisfying attempts implementing effective peer assessment. While there is plenty to be improved in the ways MOOCs are created and the features and functionalities on which they rely, much of the negative press surrounding high attrition and poor peer assessment is dubious—albeit understandable. The criticisms stem from a confusion between the goals and their labels. In short, the problem is bad terminology. Continue reading
Last month, Mike Caulfield and I introduced the term “distributed flip”, in an attempt to call attention to the emerging trend of flipping a course by making use of MOOC content (often “live” MOOC content) and activities. We both believe pretty firmly that MOOCs (both xMOOCs and cMOOCs) “can be integrated deeply into a traditional campus-based education, providing the economic and pedagogical benefits of networked learning while preserving the desirable attributes of traditional face-to-face, place-based education” (from a submitted, but yet-to-be-published paper). Continue reading