University gives updates on MOOC accreditation

By Raul Herrera / Assistant News Director

The University’s Massive Open Online Course program is finally adapting to the State’s demands, requiring students to take a final exam to receive credits for any MOOC.

The finalized proposal on how the University would meet Florida’s MOOC accreditation requirement was presented to the Faculty Senate on April 8. Susan Clemmons, associate dean of University College and adjunction the Department of Decision Sciences & Information Systems, and Kristen Nichols-Lopez, associate chair of the Department of Psychology presented the initiative.

Laurie Shrage, faculty senator and professor of philosophy, said in a previous interview with Student Media that the MOOC tests would function much like the College Level Examination Program, which allows students to eliminate core credits by taking an exam.

FIU Online Dean Joyce Elam said that it will be an entirely self-driven initiative, as students will access the material by themselves with no professorial help.

Clemmons said that one of the aims of the University’s venture was to “capture the magic of FIU.”

“We want to translate [what makes FIU courses unique] into the MOOC, and we want to translate that into the exam,” added Nichols-Lopez.

Elam said the exams would largely be under the “Adaptive Coursework” program, which will be tooled so that if a student gets a question wrong, the test becomes easier. If the student guesses correctly, the assignment becomes more difficult.

Elam clarified that such a structure would help students learn the basics and recap what they know, and connect it to whatever concept they may have missed before the exam.

According to Clemmons, Adaptive Coursework will also replace the function of textbooks.

The MOOC proposal was presented on the heels of incumbent Chairman Delano Gray’s comments on how classrooms “in this day and age require leaders, not followers.”

“I am totally in favor of MOOCs,” said Gray, who also alluded to an anecdote about people calling the automobile a fad long ago, saying that the “same thing is going to happen with electronic media.”

Student Media previously reported on MOOC accreditation and some of the concerns surrounding it back when the proposal was still being drafted by the Online Review Committee.

Shrage, who was a member of the committee, commented on some of these issues.

“The trick of this is the following: If you’re not getting credit for seat time and the whole set of ways we do it in class, such as exercises, papers, tests and activities, instead of assessments and experiences, we’re going to have to reduce our learning goals to what people call a set of competencies,” Shrage said.

Shrage also commented on her concerns as a professor in the realm of the humanities.

“[There] isn’t a lot of agreement about what areas of content should be covered and how we would define the skills that students would have to have to demonstrate the mastery of a course’s learning objectives,” Shrage said.

Elam said that this potential issue would be ameliorated through faculty members meeting to discuss what to include in the Adaptive Coursework program.

“They will sit down and say ‘Okay, what do we want to be included?’” Elam said.

Elam emphasized on her belief that MOOCs will allow students to take full charge of their own learning experience. She also said that the program is not semester based.

“If a student wants to get the credit in November, they’ll say “Okay!” and take [the MOOC] in November,“ Elam said.

But unlike the University’s other MOOC courses, these will come at a cost.

“It’s not free,” said Clemmons, mentioning that the cost is about $150.

Elam clarified that the price would be half of what students pay for regular credits. She also differentiated from the previous MOOCs, saying that they were based more on general knowledge, rather than specific academic topics.

FIU Online currently offers MOOCs such as Applied Real Estate and Entrepreneurship and New Ventures. According to Clemmons and Nichols-Lopez, one of the first courses to be implemented under the new Adaptive Coursework and accreditation program will be Intro to Psychology.

The Faculty Senate passed the proposal.

Elam wondered in her interview how students will react to the new initiative on MOOCs.

“Do you think students will enroll?” Elam asked.

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