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Project Manager : Project Manager Feb Mar 2013
24 Project Manager •COVER STORY 2012 A total of 20 universities and other education providers across Australia offer 1700 units and 180 qualifications through online courses. 2011 The Centre of Online Learning Excellence is launched by Open Universities Australia with the purpose of becoming a centre for best practice in online education. MOOCS MAKE THEIR MARK The massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of web-based course aimed at large-scale participation and open access. It is usually free, credit-less and can handle thousands of students at any one time. This contrasts with traditional online courses, which generally charge course fees, carry credit and limit enrolment to ensure some level of interaction with instructors. Many universities around the world now offer free MOOCs through ser vices such as Coursera, Khan Academy and iTunes U. Coursera, for example, was founded by two Stanford University scientists. It has 204 courses available from 35 schools, and more than 1.8 million students from 196 countries currently enrolled. Gregory Harper from Swinburne University of Technology says MOOCs are an opportunity to learn for the sake of learning. He claims employers have the most to gain by using the courses to upskill staff at little or no cost to the organisation. "[MOOCs] give staff access to learning and development that will provide skills and capabilities that align to organisation needs," he says. Harper is also hopeful that this type of mass online learning will lead to formal recognition of knowledge gained outside the classroom -- specifically, skills gained at work. "I find that an immensely stimulating and challenging opportunity," he adds. On the down side, the sheer size of MOOCs means instructors can't respond to students individually, so the course design often involves crowd sourcing. Classmates work together in study groups and often take the place of the instructor in fielding questions and even marking assessments. Allowing students to mark the papers of their classmates has obvious drawbacks but more concerning, says Harper, is the loss of interaction between teacher and student. Chivonne Algeo, a lecturer at the University of Technology in Sydney, is also fearful that this disconnection, with teachers no longer giving feedback on student work, can be 'dangerous'. "Teachers can't take corrective action until it is too late ... they don't know until assessment time whether terms have been understood correctly; the checkpoints of face-to-face learning aren't there where you can identify concepts that need further explanation," she explains. Both Algeo and Harper concur that MOOCs aren't for everyone. Highly self-motivated students may derive great benefit from this type of learning, but the average student, who requires motivation and inspiration, is likely to lose their way in an environment that doesn't offer scheduled classes or feedback from instructors. a facial expression or the tone of voice used when asking a question, which is lost when courses are moved into the online environment. " ere's no question that all the technology out there is slick but it's not the panacea that people think it is," he says. "[Technology] is seen to drive e ciency, but what's dropped o is analysis of its e ectiveness." Arthur says that while online teaching has its place within the broader spectrum of educational opportunities, for better or worse face-to-face teaching will remain the core of Australia's education system. So, prophets of the digital revolution might be predicting the demise of 'chalk and talk ', but educators aren't giving up on traditional methods just yet. at said, the experts agree that technology has left its mark on educational practice and it can certainly enhance learning. Algeo war ns educators not to ignore innovation when it lands on their doorstep. Other wise, tried and true face-to -face learning risks losing impact on a new generation of tech-sav vy students. "Five years ago you would never have seen a student without a pen, but I was asked by a student recently if she could borrow one," Algeo says. "She said that she has an iPad and doesn't have the need for pens." •••
Project Manager Dec Jan 2013
Project Manager Apr May 2013