The phenomenon of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has taken off rapidly. Many leading universities are exploring and leveraging on MOOC platforms. Coursera, an educational technology company based at Stanford University, is one of the major providers of free online learning. Formed in January 2012, Coursera has more than 3 million registered students, and has garnered 62 university partners. NUS joined Coursera as a partner university in February 2013.
Why did NUS join Coursera?
First, the partnership with Coursera will provide NUS with a global presence and online visibility, adding significantly to our international outreach efforts. It is not unusual for a Coursera course to draw an enrolment of more than 100,000 students. (In fact, currently, nearly 16,000 students enrolled in Coursera courses are from Singapore.) This gives an idea of the university’s potential reach through Coursera.
Secondly and more pertinently, the partnership with Coursera will allow NUS to leverage on the Coursera platform for our own modules. Through Coursera, NUS professors will be able to deliver new and better forms of technology-enhanced education that will augment our students’ learning experiences.
Let me explain.
The Coursera platform is well-developed, intuitive to use and very adaptable. It has the capacity and capability to host online courses at a level of sophistication beyond that of other existing platforms. Apart from the ease of uploading material and the plug-and-play features, Coursera also integrates peer assessments, guided exercises, learning checklists and data analytics, which allow course instructors to continually ascertain their students’ learning, and to calibrate accordingly.
Apart from sharing and showcasing NUS courses online to the world at large, the Coursera platform will allow us to expand the enrolment of heavily-subscribed modules at NUS. We are aware that there is a strong demand for some modules and they attract high bid points, year after year. We have erstwhile been constrained by various factors, such as the capacity of lecture theatres and availability of lecturers. Through Coursera, we will be able to circumvent some of these constraints, to enable more NUS students to have access to the modules they want to read.
In terms of infrastructure, NUS is the largest educational wireless setup in Southeast Asia and we are well-equipped to support online learning and other forms of technology-enhanced education. In collaboration with infocomm providers NCS and Cisco, NUS has successfully implemented a flexible, scalable and high-speed wireless network across its Kent Ridge and Bukit Timah campuses. To allow our users to enjoy seamless wireless access, even the internal shuttle buses on campus are equipped with mobile wireless access points via 3G routers. As such, our students and staff can watch a video or surf the Internet uninterrupted.
Coursera is an exciting development as we strive to build our own technology-enhanced education culture on campus. That said, students should not worry that we are planning to rely on MOOCs to replace face-to-face teaching. We remain focused on our top priority, that is, to enhance our students’ learning experience. Coursera is a tool; it however cannot replicate the campus experience; neither can it replace face-to-face interactions with the course instructor or with classmates. We expect to continue with face-to-face sessions while leveraging on the Coursera platform; internal NUS modules that utilise the Coursera platform will have tutorial sessions that focus on higher order skills and deeper engagement.
I will share more details in the following months. In the meantime, interested students can preview the NUS-Coursera page here. The first two public courses that NUS will be launching on the Coursera platform are ‘Write like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition’ by Associate Professor Peter Edwards of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music; and ‘Unpredictable? Randomness, Chance and Free Will’ by Professor Valerio Scarani of the Centre for Quantum Technologies and the Department of Physics. Both courses will commence in January 2014. Feel free to sign up for these courses, or to explore the other courses offered on Coursera. Happy learning!
I believe Coursera will serve as an exciting platform for students to access great material. However, I’m not entirely sure if we business students will actually make the most of it. This may be a pretty biased since it comes from a personal and myopic observation, but most of my course-mates do not seem to take much interest in anything beyond the curriculum. For example, most of my batch-mates do not sign up for any talks, even if it concerns pressing global trends that shape the business landscape. For the few that do attend any talks, they tend to be limited to recruitment drives or platforms where they hope to secure some internship. There seems to be little interest in talks or events that give us food-for-thought, but do not directly help us achieve better grades/secure a better job/add to our CV.
While Coursera will definitely provide us with thought-provoking material, even material that could inspire new business ideas and opportunities, I’m not sure if it will significantly add value to the average NUS business student’s learning. I applaud the efforts to let us tap onto the best minds in the world, but perhaps the more pressing issue would be to motivate the NUS cohort to actually use such resources. But then again, that may be a near impossible feat, given many of our already hectic schedules.
Interestingly, I wrote a press letter about merging learning technologies with the working world. See below.
I refer to “Raising productivity key this year: SNEF head”
I have the experience of working in 2 SMEs, public sector, private sector and a start-up.
The workplaces have the WSQ Framework to help boost productivity and are also certified People Excellence Awards to ensure that lifelong training is in place. The organisations are also able to claim Productivity Innovation Credit (PIC) due to this.
However, despite all these measures, something is lacking.
Most of the time, these workplaces are still very top-down driven and junior employees hardly have any say or input in the companies’ direction or existing problems.
In many educational institutions, many of them have put in place, crowd-sourcing, open-innovation, collaborative learning, flipped classroom, problem-based learning to engage and empower students to think out of the box. It is through such learning and teamwork that Facebook and start-ups are founded.
However, once these students are in the workplace, they soon realise that SMEs, MNCs and public sector do not really practice these learning pedagogies.
I recommend that government assistance grants such as Productivity Innovation Credit, Corporate Income Tax, Wage Credit, Technology Adoption Grant and Market Assessment Grant incorporate these learning pedagogies as a benchmark for all companies to implement and to claim tax relief.
I also recommend that these companies should consult NIE or NUS or NTU or SMU to help spread these learning pedagogies to their workplace.
It will be good to have Open Innovation too on MMOC.
Click on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_innovation.
Many scientists and sociologists also out-source their problems to universities and students can earn points and money when they are judged to have the best solution.
I strongly encourage everyone to use this opportunity to enjoy their learning process. In the real world, many people frown on such learning pedagogies and inquisitiveness. To them, such a learning attitude will be deemed as unfit and interfering with them.
Below is an message, written to me by someone, when curiosity kills the cat.
It will be wise on the part of anyone who enters a new organization to spend sufficient time to firstly work on understanding the various role and functions of your own job. Secondly, of your own division’s. Then to understand the other divisions. From there, if you can find interesting things which they could adopt, then you can suggest to them but ONLY if it is actually APPLICABLE to their division and work area.
In case you have not noticed, information permeates through channels which you cannot see nor know of unless you have one ear on the ground (like literally). Hence we do know of what happens in the other divisions. My take is that, before you go out and give “advice”, “direction”, “suggestion”, “information”, “idea” or whatever, please take the time to understand the applicability.
To quote: “Bangs and smokes are oft more the signs of ineptitude”. Hence banging on about ideas to the wrong people to try and “smoke” through that proper thought has been given to the subject is not going to work.
I remember getting excited about this when I saw it in the papers some months ago, and I had hoped that the courses would begin in the summer months when students have more time to explore something new.
But since it’s stated here that the courses will commence during term time in January, I’m curious about how they will fit into the current modular system. Will their workload be taken into account? Are there modular credits and grades pegged to the courses? And will it be possible for students on SEP to enroll (even with their pre-planned workload)?
As a student, I have two main concerns I hope that the university will clarify:
1. Will the Coursera courses count towards university requirements? If they are not, then what is the incentive for any currently enrolled students to take them and take advantage of the “technology-enhanced education that will augment our students’ learning experiences”? If they are, then surely the assessment mode must be carefully scrutinised. I also assume that to apply a bell curve would be ridiculous given the expected number -and demographics- of the participants taking the Coursera courses.
2. Is there a long term view to monetise this collaboration with Coursera? For example, are the professors who design these MOOCs paid to design them given the logistical and technical effort that must be put in to design such a course? Relatedly, given the proliferation of online courses, does this mean that the hiring of new tutors/professors will change to fit the new demands of offering and using MOOCs?
I hope MOOCs will not take over real human interaction.
This is because according a survey, “Some 80 per cent of respondents said that “being heard and respected” are more important to them than having their customer service issues resolved.”
Having someone listen to you and engaging you is more important than having answers to your problems.
For example, I attended MND’s Singapore Conversation on Public Housing. During the 2 hour session, the facilitators had no answers for our queries but they just let the participants air our grievances. We felt respected and valued even though there were no solutions.
MOOCs will be important to some lectures when their foreign accent is very hard to follow.
One more question about MOOC.
Will it devalue the degree?
Most of the time, job application forms have a few tick boxes and you have to declare if the education you received is “Distance Learning”, “On Site Campus” or “Correspondence”.
Generally, most HR people do not like ‘top-up degrees’ and ‘correspondence’
When I have a few modules subjects that were ungraded, one of the HR, checking my documents remarked how come it was “S” and had no grades. She was under the impression that I had failed or just a borderline pass.
If MOOCs need to take off, pls also sell this to employers or they would be under the impression that MOOCs are inferior quality.
I am glad that NUS is exploring the MOOC space and I believe that there is great potential within the next 50 years for MOOC.
Universities around the world can share knowledge and lecturers online without the need of being physically present in their universities, education will become more globalized and interconnected, the transmission of knowledge and ideas will depend less on physical contact.
While the MOOC endeavaour may not yield immediate results for education, I strongly believe that it is a field that all education institutions should explore and develop.
Take for example if language courses went online, people can learn languages without spending significant amount of money and transportation time.
Still I think that it can go further than that,
I would believe that in the future not just university courses will be available online but perhaps even primary education, secondary education. Developing such a platform will inveitably bring down the cost of education and increase the literacy rate in developing countries.
However there is still much to be done, I believe that the means of teaching through online mediums is not fully explored and optimized, education institutions have focused in the past on transmitting knowledge through physical venues rather than online mediums, in certain sense we are really great in conducting physical lectures!
However there is insufficient time and research spend on optimizing MOOC courses to optimize the transmission of knowledge through online channels, and hence online course may seem “less of the real thing” and inefficient, however if MOOC is optimized and throughly researched it may present a much better educational experience and can play a bigger role in education in the future.
MOOCs can also link up with real life industry problems. For example, P&G now outsources their problems to scientists and solvers to do up campaigns or solve technical problems and in return, reward them with jobs or money. Click on http://www.innocentive.com/innovation-solutions/innocentive-at-work
Most companies in Singapore are afraid of revealing their own problems at work due to Official Secrets Act or loss of face. With MOOCs, this can be a platform to reach out to them and hopefully, change their perception that engaging their workers in this manner will be good for the company’s image and bottomline too.
My letter was published. But I think it would take some time for industry to catch up unless there is monetary incentive involved.
I have worked in the public and private sectors, including two small and medium enterprises and a start-up.
The workplaces have the Workforce Skills Qualification framework to help boost productivity, for which Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) benefits can be claimed. The organisations have also won the People Excellence Award for ensuring that lifelong training is in place.
Despite these measures, something was lacking. Most of the time, these workplaces were top-down driven and junior employees hardly had any say in the companies’ direction or existing problems.
In many educational institutions, students are engaged and empowered to think out of the box through crowdsourcing, open innovation, collaborative learning, flipped classrooms and problem-based learning. It is through such learning and teamwork that start-ups are founded.
Once these students enter the workforce, though, they soon realise that many organisations do not really practice these pedagogies.
Perhaps government assistance grants such as the PIC and Wage Credit Scheme could incorporate these pedagogies as a benchmark for companies to implement and to claim tax relief. Companies should also consult local universities to help spread these pedagogies to their workplaces.
These are two interesting courses which may be valuable to be “MOOCed”.
Searching for Coast Marine Life
Professor Neal Chung speaks about his work on membranes and his philosophy of life and research.