Coursera, UC San Diego Use MOOCs to Make Workers More Job-Ready

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2012 exacerbated such fears. We were told, alternatively, that MOOCs were either going to save civilization or destroy it! So I am completely sympathetic with the concerns that many people have.

My own feeling is that online technology has advanced in exciting ways, even in the past two years. Ironically, there are many things that as educators we want to do in our face-to-face classes that are difficult, especially in classes of more than a few dozen students, but which may be possible using online tools. Online technology is not a magic bullet, and it can be misused. But it also offers us the opportunity to rethink very basic questions about education. What conditions best promote learning? Can we make learning a more active process? Can we use online tools to support collaborative learning? Can online technology enable project-based learning? Can learning be made more personalized, so that the student’s experience adapts dynamically to individual needs, preparation, and interests?

X: How does this initiative compare with what’s happening at other colleges and universities, and other UC campuses?

JE: The Online Office (the full name is a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?) was only established a month ago. But the campus has been carefully exploring the MOOC world for the past two years. Of course, UC San Diego Extension has been using online tools for many years. We have proceeded carefully and cautiously, but this does not mean we’ve been late to the party.

UCSD's Jeff ElmanHere is an interesting fact:  Coursera (one of our two MOOC partners) offers courses that come from 122 university partners. At present, all of these courses together have about 14 million learners in them. Impressively, over 1 million of those learners are in the UC San Diego courses [offered free through Coursera]. So we are 1 out of 122 universities offering MOOCs, but account for 1 out of 14 learners taking Coursera’s courses. One of our courses, ‘Learning How to Learn’ is said to be the largest MOOC ever offered by anyone.

This success is gratifying but it also made us realize that it was time to take a more organized and aggressive strategy toward what we do in the online world.

X: Why did you choose to make Computer Graphics CSE 167x the first course to be offered?

JE: Professor Ravi Ramamoorthi, who is a world leader in this area, is teaching the computer graphics course. He had already developed this course for edX, and was ready to go, so when the campus finalized its agreement with edX, this was a natural first course. But as I said, we have been offering courses on Coursera for several years now, with great success.

In addition, we just launched a new specialization (this is a sequence of courses that are focused on professional development) on Coursera that’s in the area of design. We also have the two professional specialization sequences that are part of Coursera’s Global Skills Initiative. In partnership with Qualcomm, UC San Diego is creating a … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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