By Sarah Geegan
The University of Kentucky, in an effort to enhance student readiness and performance, has launched a partnership with the country's leading massive open online course (MOOC) platform, Coursera.
UK is one of 10 flagship state universities or systems that make up this first wave of large public universities to announce a partnership with Coursera. And, as importantly, this partnership -- unlike a number of providers for massive open online courses -- is targeting high school students to ensure that they are prepared for college.
"This partnership is one more example of our innovative approach to fulfilling our university's commitment, as the Commonwealth's flagship institution, to provide high-quality education and create a brighter future for Kentuckians," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "These courses will amplify and expand our efforts in student readiness and preparation for college coursework, further integrate high-tech approaches into classroom learning, and ultimately provide more opportunities for students who are entering college, and who are already enrolled."
Specifically, the partnership initially will focus on improving student readiness for first-year college level courses. Online courses will provide free instructional and supplemental material for high school students who are gearing up for college-level chemistry courses or preparing for AP placement exams.
“I appreciate the ongoing dialogue that is taking place as this important academic initiative moves forward," said Lee Blonder, University Senate Council chair. "That dialogue should continue as the faculty want to ensure that courses and instruction offered through this platform are done so in a manner that is consistent with the level of excellence expected at a flagship institution of higher learning.”
To initiate the program, the UK Department of Chemistry will develop a course designed to prepare any high school student -- whether that student plans to attend UK or go elsewhere -- for college-level chemistry coursework. The curriculum will also be designed for potential use by high school instructors within their classes to further prepare students for college-level chemistry.
As a result, a student who performs well in the UK chemistry MOOC would be in a better position to perform well on the AP or other placement exams, and to be successful in entry-level college courses, saving tuition dollars and lowering costs. Or, in school districts that do not provide AP level Chemistry courses, the MOOC curriculum offered by UK will be the equivalent in terms of providing common core standards that are being adopted across the Commonwealth.
"The chemistry department faculty members are excited about the project, because this technology will enable us to reach high school students, teachers and parents, and to provide them with learning opportunities and support that we have not been able to provide in the past," UK Department of Chemistry Chair Mark Meier said. "We are really optimistic that the new technology will lead to better prepared students entering UK and other colleges and universities."
The course will be developed during the summer and fall of 2013, with faculty members and academic technology course designers at UK working together, and will become available during the Spring term of the 2013-2014 academic year.
Once the program is underway, UK Faculty will have the ability to develop new online courses and adapt existing MOOC content, which they can incorporate into their own classrooms. This approach allows faculty to combine online video lectures and content with active, in-person classroom interactions to increase student engagement. The concept is what many educators refer to as a "hybrid" approach to a curriculum that combines the best of technology and in-class instruction with faculty.
"This partnership is an exciting next step in the university's advancement in incorporating cutting-edge technology into the classroom and beyond," said Vince Kellen, senior vice provost for academic planning, analytics and technologies and UK chief information officer. "Coursera is a leading provider of online instructional technology, and UK's place in the first wave of flagship institutions to embark on this partnership speaks to the quality of our university."
The partnership also opens up new channels for sharing knowledge and resources between professors, and across campuses and entire state university systems. Whether creating, modifying or adding to their curriculums, professors will have access to instructor-to-instructor interactions and discover best practices from a diverse community of education professionals.
By using Coursera in their teaching, professors will also be able to tap into the platform’s data analytics, which can identify learning pain points and recognize gaps in subject matter, thus allowing professors to refocus their efforts for improved student outcomes.
“We think the coming decade will see a transformation in the way education is delivered, where teachers and online content come together to serve better students on campus and beyond,” said Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera.
The nine other universities partnering with Coursera include: the State University of New York (SUNY), the Tennessee Board of Regents, University of Colorado, University of Houston System, University of Nebraska, University of New Mexico, University System of Georgia, University of Tennessee, and West Virginia University.