Thought Leaders | MOOCs | Fall 2012

University of Maryland University College talks MOOCs

By Dean Tsouvalas |

Marie Cini, UMUC
MOOCs are taking the education and online learning worlds by storm. What is a MOOC you say? A MOOC is the acronym for Massive Open Online Courses. A MOOC is available to anyone with online access, taught by one or more college professors, encourages collaboration (work is shared with other people taking the course) and perhaps most important, a MOOC is free. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with, Marie Cini, acting provost and chief academic officer at University of Maryland - University College. UMUC is one of the largest public providers of online higher education in the nation. Marie shared her views on MOOCs, higher education, and the bright outlook for her university.

Dean Tsouvalas: There is so much written about this new model of learning. How can you help students and lifelong learners make sense of all of this?
Marie Cini: First, it’s important to know what your educational goals are. MOOCs are free courses that often do not lead to a degree or credit from the institution that is offering the course. However, if taking a course online or on a topic of interest is something you want to explore, it may be a good time to experiment by enrolling in a MOOC. You are also not tied to a degree program, or the required courses that are part of the program, and can take courses in a variety of fields that are of interest to you. However, you should always ask questions of the institution offering the MOOC. Some universities are experimenting with offering MOOCs for credit, so things are changing quickly.

DT: What are the most important things I should know about MOOCs?
  • MOOCs are online and open to anyone
  • In most cases you cannot get academic credit from the institution offering the course, but this is changing
  • Like most online courses, MOOC learning is asynchronous, so you have flexibility as to when you “attend” class and do the work
  • Academic content varies from taped lectures to more sophisticated uses of technology
  • Your own initiative and motivation make the difference in how much you will learn
DT: What makes a great MOOC?
MC: Like all effective online courses, good course design, interaction with faculty and peers, and effective learning activities make a great MOOC.

DT: How do you find the best MOOC for you?
MC Really, it all depends on why you want to enroll in a MOOC. You can look at the large providers like Coursera, edX, and Udacity for a list of interesting courses. However, many standalone universities are offering their own MOOCs as an experiment.

DT: How would you suggest someone get the most out of a MOOC?
MC: Since MOOCs are massive open online courses, it is important that you are motivated to participate in discussions, and determine what it will take to achieve your goals. You also have the opportunity to make connections with a wide range of people who are taking the course. As with many pursuits, you will get as much as you put into it.

DT: Look into your crystal ball 10 years into the future. Describe the higher education or lifelong learning experience.
MC: UMUC is an innovator and will continue to help shape what the future will look like. We are launching a Center for Innovation in Learning to help shape that future. We believe that learning will be even less location-bound than it is today. Learner analytics will enable us to create more individualized pathways for students.

University of Maryland University College (UMUC), headquartered in Adelphi, Maryland, is the largest public university in the United States, serving 92,000 students and offering 95 undergraduate and graduate programs online and on-site. In addition, UMUC is one of the largest public providers of online higher education in the nation. UMUC takes pride in its 65-year history of service to the military and currently enrolls an estimated 50,000 military service members, veterans, and their dependents each year. The university offers face-to-face instruction at 20 locations throughout Maryland and educational services in 28 countries and territories and more than 150 locations worldwide, including the Middle East. UMUC is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is a constituent institution of the University System of Maryland, an agency of the State of Maryland.

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