Classroom Technology

New ‘MOOC’ Model for Online PD Offers Diverse Course Lineup

By Sean Cavanagh — May 07, 2013 2 min read
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We reported last week on the news that Coursera, a big name in the world of “massively open online courses,” is moving into K-12 by partnering with teacher colleges and other institutions to offer ongoing professional development to educators.

Teachers typically face requirements to update their professional training regularly, and they end up doing so through a variety of sources. So Coursera could presumably be tapping into a major area of need, while also connecting colleges to an audience—practicing educators—they’re eager to reach with offers of high-quality PD.

In fact, Coursera’s co-founder, Andrew Ng, told Education Week that the initial courses offered by the schools of education and other institutions are not meant to be taken for credit, but rather to serve as continuing education for teachers who have requirements to fulfill, or for educators and others who are otherwise interested in honing a skill.

So what MOOCs are initially being offered to K-12 teachers and others through Coursera? It’s an eclectic list of 28 courses, in some cases delving into specific content, in others focused on strengthening educators’ overall classroom skills.

Here’s a taste of the course lineup:

• The New Teacher Center has a course designed to help first-year teachers, focused on building sound relationships with students, creating positive classroom environments, setting behavior expectations, and using instructional time wisely.

• New York’s Museum of Modern Art is offering a course on how teachers can blend lessons on works of art into their classes using “inquiry-based” teaching originally designed for education occurring in museum galleries.

• The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education has included a course on how to improve early-childhood teachers’ knowledge of teacher-child interactions that promote children’s development, a longstanding area of focus at the university.

• One offering from Johns Hopkins’ school of education focuses on “brain-targeted teaching,” or helping educators apply what’s known about neuro and cognitive sciences into their teaching in practical ways.

• The American Museum of Natural History, in New York, is offering a free online course to help educators discuss evolutionary science in their classroom lessons.

The courses vary in length, and they have different start dates. Their initial popularity, and the extent to which a business model evolves out of this, will probably go a long way to determining whether whether this new model of MOOC takes hold.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.