UHV develops free online course as first program offering

The University of Houston-Victoria is continuing its tradition of innovation in online education by creating one of the UH System's first three Massive Open Online Courses on Coursera, a leading national platform for free online courses.

"More than a decade ago, UHV was one of the first universities in the country to offer degree programs completely online, so being in the forefront of developing MOOCs is fitting for an innovative university such as UHV," president Phil Castille said.

These are free or low-cost online classes that typically have unlimited participation and open access. The term was first coined in 2008 and has become a hot topic in higher education since gaining ground in 2012 with the launch of several Massive Open Online Courses platforms, such as Coursera, Udacity, edX and others.

In May, Coursera announced from its California headquarters it would be working with the UH System and nine other state university systems and public university flagships across the nation to explore the possibilities of using Massive Open Online Courses technology and content to enhance higher education's reach. The UH System is the only participating partner from Texas.

Some systems plan to blend online materials with faculty-led classroom sessions. Others will offer credit to students who take the courses online followed by a proctored exam on campus.

"These new online platforms offer huge educational possibilities to learners - because anyone in the world, no matter their location or age, can pursue almost any topic of interest with course offerings from multiple universities," Castille said. "While UHV's initial Massive Open Online Courses is a continuing education, noncredit offering, universities are beginning to experiment with credit-bearing Massive Open Online Courses, which could be the next step to providing low-cost higher education."

UHV's first Massive Open Online Courses is Applying Principles of Behavior in the K-12 Classroom. It was developed by Andria Young, a UHV associate professor of education, and Bev Hoerig, an instructional designer who helps UHV faculty implement online classes. Nearly 500 students already have enrolled in the class, which will be April 7 to May 4. Those interested can register for the class now on Coursera by searching for the course title.

The four-week class is geared toward teachers who want to learn more about assessing behaviors in the classroom in order to create effective interventions. Young said the course will be helpful for those wanting to continue their education. It recently was approved by the Texas Education Agency as a continuing professional education credit course.

"Offering professional education hours through Massive Open Online Courses is an opportunity for those who don't have the time and resources to attend a class in person," she said. "It also gets the university's name out in front of potential students and brands UHV and the UH System."

Young and Hoerig have worked on developing the course since the summer. Their work included taking content from several semester-long online courses Young teaches at UHV and reworking the content to fit the four-week course. It also involved recording 10 video lectures and getting approval from Coursera. And while it was a long process, Young said that the advantage is that it can easily be offered again.

"The most challenging part for me was recording the video lectures because it was something I hadn't done before," Young said. "But I appreciate that Coursera has high standards for their online classes, and I learned a lot throughout the process."

Hoerig agreed that it was a positive learning experience and said that she plans to implement some of the processes for expediting course development, video recording and quality control in future online courses at UHV.

In 2008, Hoerig took one of the first Massive Open Online Courses, "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge," but said the concept has really taken off since 2012. After working on the first course at UHV, other faculty members already have expressed interest in designing more Massive Open Online Courses.

"It is amazing how fast the concept has taken off recently," she said. "A year ago, most people barely understood the concept of a Massive Open Online Courses, and now it is a hot topic. It is a testament to the number of people who want to learn in an easy and affordable environment."

The future of Massive Open Online Courses is still unknown, including the development of a revenue model for public universities. But Castille said they have high potential.

"Universities are in the experimental stage, trying to figure out how Massive Open Online Courses's fit into higher education," Castille said. "They could be a game changer, and I'm pleased that once again UHV is in the forefront of 21st century higher education."

For the full story, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/highered.