MOOCs No Slam Dunk For Virginia Commonwealth University - InformationWeek
12:48 PM
Connect Directly

MOOCs No Slam Dunk For Virginia Commonwealth University

Rather than jump headfirst into online education, VCU created a task force, surveyed students and faculty and wrote a long-range plan.

 8 MOOCs Transforming Education
8 MOOCs Transforming Education
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The right way to enter into online education, according to Virginia Commonwealth University, is carefully.

Earlier this year, a VCU task force delivered a report to the university's provost, outlining an online education strategy, which will be fleshed out in the coming months and years, according to Jonathan Becker, interim director of Online Academic Programs and associate professor of Educational Leadership.

A social scientist by training, Becker was the point person for developing what's known as the S.A.G.E. report. The acronym breaks down as:

-- S for support, particularly of currently enrolled students.

-- A for access. That's about "figuring out which programs we think have a market beyond our brick-and-mortar campus," Becker said. The emphasis here is on credit-bearing and certificate programs, such as continuing education courses for teachers. "We're looking at ones that will generate revenue," Becker said, adding that although conceptualizing revenue-making programs is an implicit goal, it hasn't been a pressure point.

-- G for growth. New programs the university could offer but doesn't today.

-- E for exploration. Becker said that translates into "thinking big and being innovative."

[ For more on MOOCs, read Will MOOCs Massively Disrupt Higher Education? ]

The VCU strategic report, ordered by the university's provost in January and delivered earlier this year, focuses little on any particular delivery platform or technology.

"MOOCs came up, and we may put edX or Google's code [the open source Course Builder] on a server," in order to test these systems," Becker said. Becker himself has experience teaching online. For two years, he taught a class in educational technology to postgraduate students pursuing a certification in educational administration. He chose to cobble those classes together using Google Apps, instead of using the Blackboard LMS.

Asked about MOOCs, Becker said there had been "interest but no pressure" from VCU students and faculty.

"Our current face-to-face students like the flexibility [a MOOC] would give them," Becker said. "But they're savvy consumers, some have had good experiences and some have had bad experiences with online education."

Becker and the S.A.G.E. task group know the specific requests and concerns of students and faculty because it took the time to survey both groups earlier this year. In fact, this is his top recommendation for institutions considering an online education initiative.

"Start off with a deep and wide conversation with all the constituencies, collect data and see where it takes you," Becker said.

Asked what MOOC vendors bring to the table, Becker says it's their claim of using big data to better understand learners, learner networks and how the two interact.

Interestingly, this interest maps to the original goals of the first MOOC, the 2008 course created by Canadians George Siemens and Stephen Downes, Becker said.

"That's more consistent with what the Internet was designed for, and I hope we get back to that idea," Becker said. "Learning and the Web are inherently social, and I hope we get back to that."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/6/2013 | 6:24:38 PM
re: MOOCs No Slam Dunk For Virginia Commonwealth University
What do you think? Deliberate strategy or overly cautious?
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll