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

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specialization in the Internet of Things. And Splunk, a big data technology provider, is sponsoring our San Diego Supercomputer Center’s creation of a Big Data specialization. Both of these sequences will launch in the fall.

X: How do you measure whether the Online Office is succeeding?

JE: This is a great question, because the question of how one measures educational success goes far beyond just the online approach. This is one of the reasons why the Online Office is part of a newly established larger organization on campus, The Teaching and Learning Commons. One of the core areas of The Commons will be assessment and evaluation, and having the Online Office situated within The Commons will allow us to work together to develop metrics for success. Ultimately, the key goal is not the number of online courses we are offering or the number of students we reach, but rather how well our students learn. And here is where UC San Diego’s commitment to research comes in. As we develop new pedagogical approaches, we will be constantly testing the results to understand which approaches work better, and why. This is in some sense a scientific question, and the answers have very practical consequences for how we teach.

X: Can you describe the person who would take online classes through your program? What do the students who take these courses get out of the program?

JE: At present, I think there will be three main groups that we will be trying to reach.  The first will be our own students, who may use online materials in existing courses to enhance their learning. These are often called ‘hybrid courses’, involving ‘flipped learning’. A second group will be our educational pipeline. We would like to work together with teachers in local high schools and community colleges to develop courses that can accelerate students’ progress in college. A third focus will be to provide people—of any age, career or educational stage, and anywhere in the world—with professionally-oriented skill-building courses to enhance their workforce preparation and advancement.

X: Can they obtain a college degree?

JE: At present, almost all of the online courses offered by campus are non-credit bearing. So they do not count toward a college degree.  The University of California, however, does have the goal of increasing opportunities for students to take online courses for credit. Our campus participates in that initiative. The goal in this effort is not to replace the college degree but to expand opportunities for students to take some (but not most) courses online. However, it is quite possible that at the graduate level, we may in a few years offer professional degrees (e.g., Masters) that are online. In the meantime, many of the courses we will give online, including the specialization sequences, offer the option of obtaining a certificate that validates the student’s participation and completion in the course.

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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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