KSU offers free international online course
by Hannah Morgan
January 12, 2014 10:57 PM | 4338 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — Kennesaw State University has joined a number of universities around the world in offering a free online course, in hopes of promoting its name internationally.

The course aims to show teachers, and those interested in education, how to better integrate technology and aspects of online learning into their classrooms.

Many at KSU see the free online courses as the future of education in the state.

Anissa Vega has been a professor in the Bagwell College of Education since August 2011, and she teaches a variety of

both online and classroom-based courses.

Vega is excited for the opportunity to reach students across the globe, and as of Monday, when the course began, there were more than 3,500 students registered for the course.

The class, called K-12 Blended Online Learning, teaches students, many of whom are teachers themselves, how to integrate technology into classrooms.

Over eight weeks, from Jan. 6 to March 3, Vega will update the online portal with new assignments, videos and readings, and attempt to keep as many students as possible engaged in the course.

Online courses have gotten negative press

Vega’s course will be offered on Coursera, a for-profit company that offers massive, open online courses, called MOOCs, which was founded by Stanford University computer science professors.

KSU is one of hundreds of schools that have partnered with Coursera to offer free classes, including Brown University, Tel Aviv University and Georgia Tech.

MOOCs have received flak for their professors’ inabilities to track thousands of students at once, and accurately grade that many assignments, according to a November 2012 article in the New York Times.

Data from a University of Pennsylvania Graduate

School of Education study, posted on its website, revealed in December, “that massive open online courses have relatively few active users, that user ‘engagement’ drops off dramatically … and that few users persist to the course end.”

Vega isn’t deterred by the negative press, and instead sees the course as an opportunity to redefine online learning.

She thinks the benefits of online learning can far outweigh some classroom instruction.

“It’s incredibly convenient,” Vega said. With three young children at home, she can upload a reading assignment and grade submitted syllabi in between dropping her children off at day care, and making dinner for her family.

There is also the flexibility for students to learn at their own pace, she said.

“When you go to a lecture in the classroom, you take notes as fast as you can. You can replay and revisit all of the course material as many times as you need,” Vega said.

The course requires an average of 5 hours of at-home work for students enrolled in the course, Vega said. She uploads required reading and homework assignments to the site, but tweets to her students as well, answering individual questions as they arise on a number of different time zones.

Vega said she has students logging into her class from Japan, Australia, South Africa and the Canary Islands.

Free learning may be future of education

Vega believes the future of educating lies in online courses.

“K-12 online education in the state of Georgia is exploding,” she said.

Budgets of school systems across the country are dwindling, and many districts are unable to pay for continued education for their teachers.

Vega believes her course, and free courses like hers, can be used to teach and certify teachers in systems that can’t afford to pay the premium of most continuing professional development courses, especially for Georgia’s rural school districts.

“Myself and a lot of other MOOC professors are re-inventing online education, at Kennesaw this is serving a huge need in the state of Georgia. We are able to introduce them to online learning and professional development at little to no risk to the school system or teacher,” she said.

Free online courses are not only a money-saver for school districts, but the way of the future, Vega believes.

“Georgia is on the forefront of online learning,” she added.

Elke M. Leeds, the executive director of the distance learning center at KSU, said offering the MOOC was almost a no-brainer.

Because the school has such qualified teachers and staff, and there is such a demand for the course, Leeds said the administration at KSU was enthusiastic about the MOOC’s potential.

The course was designed to tailor the needs of the students, many of whom were accustomed to learning online.

“Some students today cannot imagine learning without technology engagement. They were raised with access to technology. Learning is a natural extension of that space,” Leeds said.

Free course just one of many online at school

By offering a free course to students all over the world, KSU is getting its name out to the world, Vega said.

Students who complete the course can apply to get up to three credit hours toward a master’s degree or teaching certificate, Vega said.

If students enjoy her course, Vega hopes they may be inclined to enroll in the University and finish a few more online courses to get a degree in teaching.

If not, at least they learned something.

“This is a great opportunity to give it the old college try,” Vega said, “There is no such thing as failure; if you enter the class and learn one new thing, you have succeeded.”

While nothing is certain yet, Vega said she hopes to be able to teach another MOOC through Coursera next January.

KSU already offers over 30 online programs, and as of Jan. 2014, the school offered 400 online courses, in which more than 5,000 students were enrolled, Leeds said.

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