MOOC for teachers: Coursera offers an online training program for teachers

ByMike V. Cooper

Apr 30, 2013

Coursera works in partnership with educational schools at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, and Vanderbilt University. In addition, the company is expanding its network of trainers beyond universities to include cultural institutions such as the Exploratory and the modern Art Museum (MOMA).

“It was the most natural thing in the world,” said Deb Howes, director of digital learning at MOMA. “It’s impossible to reach all the teachers who need and want our information, so when Coursera said they had this idea, we said absolutely, great, because we have so much to share with the teachers. “

The MOMA course is called “the art of research” and uses art as a goal to help teachers teach students to describe the world around them, to infer information from primary sources, and to foster ideas. research-based conversations. “How do you train your students to look deeper and make connections between what they see and experience” – this is the question the course will attempt to answer. This is a four-week course for teachers in Grades 4 through 12.

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Howes said the museum has offered professional development to teachers on a more limited scale for many years and that working with Coursera would provide a much larger platform for them to share what museum trainers have learned along the way.

“It’s an experience with new ways to deliver equally compelling experiences for teachers,” said Bronwyn Bevan, associate director of programs at the Exploratory, another institution offering courses. The Exploratorium has a long history of teacher training in the practical learning of science. The museum will offer classes on how to integrate DIY into learning in elementary and middle school, as well as a course on integrating engineering in middle school. The Exploratorium’s in-person teacher training courses reach approximately 500 teachers per year and are very hands-on. Bevan says the museum is excited to find ways to provide the unique experience of the Exploratorium virtually.

Coursera offered advice to participating partners on how to organize and shape a class for tens of thousands of students. “Teaching a MOOC, you have to be a lot more organized than you do in a regular classroom because the students cannot directly interact with you, the faculty,” Ng said. “It demands a greater level of clarity in everything you say compared to a course on campus. He also emphasized short, dynamic video clips and frequent interactive quizzes to keep learners engaged.

But can a MOOC-type professional development course offer the same benefits as face-to-face training? Norton Grubb, a professor of education at the University of California at Berkeley, said the most common and cheapest form of professional development districts currently offered is a one-time talk from an outside consultant on a topic that teachers can’t not control.

“What works best are groups of teachers within a school who work together on a particular problem,” said Grubb. “The important part is the interaction between the teachers, which is very difficult to replicate on a MOOC or any type of online program. Many of the problems teachers face in the classroom are site specific and can be best addressed over a longer period of time with dedicated peer group effort, he said. Grubb doesn’t think the one-size-fits-all approach is right, and he is wary of the MOOC approach until it has been proven successful.

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But teachers say they’re already learning a lot from their peers online through social networks; they connect with each other and form learning communities that spread around the world. “I think there are some things we can do to spread the expertise with this thing called the Internet and well-designed virtual learning communities that could actually break down these barriers that exist between teachers,” Barnett Berry said. , founder of the Center for Educational Quality, a non-profit organization that has been incubating teacher ideas around online professional development for several years.

Berry supports the idea of ​​MOOCs for professional development in theory because he would like teachers to be able to choose and direct their own learning. But he believes success relies on skilled virtual facilitators who know both the topic and how to foster high-quality online discussion and communication in order to make it work properly. And he doesn’t stop there – he would like to see a many things change including more time for teachers to collaborate within schools, share their practices and observe each other.