Massive Open Online Course Research & Development Updates

The University of Toronto continues to be a leader in the emerging field of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) research and development. In the past two months we have seen many exciting advancements within this Open Utoronto initiative. Highlights include:

  • Announcement of funding backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for three new research projects
  • Release of a First Year Report on MOOC initiative Activity
  • Launch of our first EdX MOOCs on Behavioural Economics and Our Engergetic Earth

New Research Projects:
Funding of three new UofT research projects were announced by the MOOC Research Initiative*, a program backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to explore the potential of MOOCs in a range of contexts. Our strong showing in this funding competition is a reflection of the wide ranging expertise of our grantees, who are exploring topics such as the motivation and experience of the individuals who participate in MOOCs, effectiveness of instructional designs, and usefulness of scalable strategies in meeting the needs of diverse learners. These projects will be the first at UofT and among the first in the field to examine more nuanced and complex aspects of MOOCs as an area of academic research. Our grantees will be presenting their work at the MRI conference, held in Arlington, Texas on December 5 – 6 of this year. This conference will connect international research leaders in the MOOC context specifically and we are pleased to be a part of this important event.

New MOOC Activity Report:
An Open Utoronto First Year Report on MOOC Activity was also published in August. The report outlines our research program and highlights our patterns of participation and MOOC activity, as well as providing a summary of our offerings to date and an outline of our projects in the development stage. Of particular interest is the demographic report on our Coursera MOOCs, which presents detailed user data from across our varied offerings. Special thanks to Stian Haklev, who is responsible for coordinating Open Utoronto institutional research initiatives and provides a range of supports to our various faculty research projects.

New Development Initiatives:
The university continues to development on both the edX and Coursera platforms. This month we are launching two EdX MOOCs including Behavioural Economics and Our Energetic Earth. As well, a new two part MOOC series on Bioinformatic Methods will begin in January on Coursera. All projects are moving forward through the collaborative efforts of teams that include our award-winning instructors, educational technology professionals, librarians, researchers, AV specialists and others. A tip of the hat to Will Heikoop, a new addition to the UofT staff who is providing design and development support to our departmentally-based MOOC teams.

We are pleased to continuously explore and evaluate a range of pedagogical approaches and open course platforms and enhance our reputation as a leading institution for teaching, learning and research.

* University of Toronto is a successful applicant of a competitive grant competition run by Athabasca University (Principal Investigator: George Siemens). This project, the MOOC Research Initiative, will advance understanding of the role of MOOCs in the education sector and how emerging models of learning will influence traditional education.   The MOOC Research Initiative is a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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