While popular MOOC platforms Coursera and Udacity claim to be free and “open” but are merely free, OERu is the real thing: a truly free and open MOOC. OERu offers free courses to anyone with an internet connection who is interested in learning online with others from anywhere the world. OERu learners study independently, from home, by accessing world-class courses from recognized institutions. Learners who want their efforts to count towards formal academic qualification can pay a reduced fee for course credit.
OERu is an international non-profit but currently has a limited number of US partners and no US community colleges in its network of institutions. This has to do with the messy nature of credit transfer between US, European, and Asian institutions but another complicating factor is the cumbersome US statewide distance learning authorization requirements for out-of-state learners, making national and international partnerships difficult.
Still, if your institution interested in joining an international network of universities and colleges dedicated to providing low-cost access to college courses using OER, check out the OERu website here. The requirements for membership are here. OERu is also willing to discuss system and consortial memberships if there is enough interest by systems such as the VCCS.
From July 21-August 18, Coursera willÂ offer a free professional development MOOC on US copyright law for librarians and educators. The course, Copyright for Educators & Librarians, will be taught by instructors from Duke, Emory, and UNC Chapel Hill. Here is a brief summary about the 4 week course:
Fear and uncertainty about copyright law often plagues educators and sometimes prevents creative teaching. This course is a professional development opportunity designed to provide a basic introduction to US copyright law and to empower teachers and librarians at all grade levels. Course participants will discover that the law is designed to help educators and librarians.
AÂ cohort of VCCS faculty and staff have registered for the MOOC. You can connect with them via Google Sites here.
For more about the Coursera course, go to https://www.coursera.org/course/cfel.
Week 1 of the Introduction to Astronomy course, offered by Duke University through Coursera, was a heady experience. After enrolling in and promptly ignoring an untold number of “MOOCs” (notice the quotes), I decided it was time to participate fully in one, both as a professional obligation and as a challenge to myself. The one that caught my eye was Introduction to Astronomy, a subject without even a tenuous connection to my profession. However, I have aways been fascinated by the subject and hoped that my personal engagement would motivate me to knuckle down: my job, 3 year old, and growing to-do list really make it impossible for me to spare the time for a luxury like a Coursera course. For the first week, I did all of the reading, watched the video lectures, downloaded Stellarium, a free version of the astronomy software being used for class, and, despite my ineptitude in anything but the basic math, completed all of the homework. Hours before the deadline at that!
Unfortunately, Â during Weeks 2-8 I flatlined. I Â got behind on the readings and lectures and the more behind I got, the less realistic it became that I could catch up. It was also getting harder and harder to use “Doing my Astronomy homework” as a legitimate excuse to my wife when there were important things to do around the house. I still received my regular class emails and invitations to join a weekly Â Google Hangout with the professor, but I didn’t even open them. Now the course is over and the emails have stopped, but the course is still listed in my Coursera account, like a badge of shame.
A few observations from my short, weeklong burst of participation:
- Both the course-designed and participant-organized social tools included in the course were for me a welcome chance to connect with other students, Â as well as ask questions. Lots of questions.
- Perhaps by design, the 9-week course happened to coincide with a number of celestial events that the provided some real-world application of the course content
- This has been stated elsewhere and is fairly obvious, but it is worth repeating: this wasn’t really a MOOC. Â
- The professor was building the course each week, which meant I could only see the current week’s course material. I couldn’t look ahead to see if it was realistic for me to participate
- The materials in the course were not open. The weekly PowerPoints and videos could be downloaded, but there was no permission given through Creative Commons licensing, for example, to reuse and remix them
- If there remaining 8 weeks of the course were like the first, then Intro to Astronomy was pretty much a traditional, instructor-led, content-driven course, despite the huge enrollment. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But don’t mistake pushing the same old content to lots more people as being revolutionary.
I have another chance to improve my miserable MOOC completion record: I am currently registered (and already a week behind!) in the Coursera-hosted courseÂ E-learning and Digital Cultures, offered by the University of Edinburgh. It’s 5 weeks long, which may be 4 too many for me.