Professional Development for 2013


I’m excited to have signed up for two professional development courses on coursera: Fundamentals of Online Education – Planning and Application; and E-learning and Digital Cultures. I am extremely keen to broaden my knowledge in this relevant field for educators/trainers, and I am also interested in testing the waters of Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOC’S. A Massive Open Online Course is a type of online course for large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education, and Coursera is just one of many providers.

Coursera ( is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, free! They envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Their technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Through this, they hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. They want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. What a fantastic mandate!

Classes offered on Coursera are designed to help the student master the material. When you take one of their classes, you watch lectures taught by world-class professors, learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts taught through interactive exercises. When you join one of their classes, you also join a global community of thousands of students learning alongside you. Because most of the students who enrol live busy lives, and have competing commitments, the courses are designed based on sound pedagogical foundations to help the student master new concepts quickly and effectively. Key ideas include mastery learning, to make sure that the students have multiple attempts to demonstrate their new knowledge; using interactivity, to ensure student engagement and to assist long-term retention; and providing frequent feedback, so that students can monitor their own progress, and know when they’ve really mastered the material.

Coursera offers courses in a variety of topics, spanning the Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, Computer Science, and many others. Whether you’re looking to improve your résumé, advance your career, or just learn more and expanding your knowledge, Coursera offers some tantalizing options.

Both of the courses that I’m taking begin on January 28th, 2013. I’ve included details about each one below, and will be using this blog as a type of journal to share my experiences and findings as I work through the courses.

1. Fundamentals of Online Education (provided by Georgia Tech):

In this course, the promise is that I will learn about the fundamentals of online education. The emphasis will be on planning and application. In the planning phase, I will explore online learning pedagogy, online course design, privacy and copyright issues, online assessments, managing an online class, web tools and Learning Management Systems. In the application phase, I will be creating online learning materials. My final project for the course will consist of building an online course based on everything that I learned and created in the course. Basically, I will be learning how to convert my face-to-face classes into robust online courses.

The classes will consist of lecture videos, which are between 5 and 12 minutes in length. These may contain 1-2 integrated quiz questions per video. There will also be standalone assignments that I’ll have to complete, accompanied by peer assessments and a final project.

It promises to be interesting, and I’ll keep you posted!

2. E-Learning and Digital Cultures (provided by the University of Edinburgh):

This course is aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age. The course is about how digital cultures intersect with learning cultures online, and how our ideas about online education are shaped through “narratives”, or big stories, about the relationship between people and technology. The course will explore some of the most engaging perspectives on digital culture in its popular and academic forms, and it will consider how our practices as teachers and learners are informed by the difference of the digital. The course will also look at how learning and literacy is represented in popular digital-, (or cyber-) culture. A typical question that will be asked, for example, would be “How is ‘learning’ represented in the film The Matrix, and how does this representation influence our understanding of the nature of e-learning?”

On this course, students have been invited to think critically and creatively about e-learning, to try out new ideas in a supportive environment, and to gain fresh perspectives on their own experiences of teaching and learning. The course begins with a “film festival”, where students will view a range of interesting short films and classic clips, and then begin discussing how these might relate to the themes emerging from the course readings. Students will then move on to a consideration of multimodal literacies and digital media, and will be encouraged to think about visual methods for presenting knowledge and conveying understanding. The final part of the course involves the creation of an individual visual artefact; a pictorial, filmic or graphic representation of any of the themes encountered during the course, and the student will be given the opportunity to use digital spaces in new ways to present their work.

The course developers have made it known that the course will make use of online spaces beyond the Coursera environment, and they want some aspects of participation in the course to involve the wider social web. Their hope is that participants will share in the creation of course content and assessed work that will be publicly available online.

The course format consists of the viewing of short film clips alongside associated readings, as well as discussions and group collaborations amongst the participants.

So, this latter course promises to be more cerebral than practical – but I think it provides a perfect balance when taken with the more practical “Online Education” course.

Watch this space for updates!


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