Teamwork Was Needed—in a Big Way
Serious scaling was required, and it had to be done quickly to reach students before they became part of the university community. Across campuses and departments, experts at UWS came together to develop the infrastructure of the MOOC using the Brightspace platform
—and the team grew along with content development.
“Doing this right required a team, and the right team,” says Hoar. “We had faculty, IT staff, our D2L colleagues, video and content specialists and a large group of math education students at two campuses to act as tutors. It was a big team but it was a great team and I think it’s what led to success.”
At every stage, D2L was there to ensure the functionality of the MOOC. Says Hoar, “The content is great but if you don’t deliver it correctly it is not going to matter. Both the platform and the team helped that delivery go well.”
A Flexible Classroom with Separate Paths
“What makes our math MOOC unique is that it offers two paths,” says Hoar. “Students can either go through the seven-week course with an instructor as the guide or they can go at their own pace. From the students’ perspective, there are no differences in the quality of education.”
According to Cari Mathwig Ramseier, LMS Administrator and Faculty Consultant at UW-L, the new challenge was engaging students with various motivations. “Many of the tools in the Brightspace platform help provide a sense of time and place to anchor the instruction, such as using the News tool as an agenda and the list of upcoming events on Calendar. Also, using video to provide content creates the feeling that the instructor is there.
“The use of all these tools can be enough so that most students feel engaged, no matter what their motivation,” adds Mathwig Ramseier.
Teaching Thousands and Keeping it Personal
With almost 2,000 learners in the course, it became impossible to maintain the degree of human interaction that was present in the original FastTrack course. And yet, according to Hoar, anecdotal feedback suggests the interaction helps improve persistence and satisfaction. In part, it’s why the original course worked so well.
In place of online student meetings, the MOOC offers online tutoring during 38 different hours each week. As well, discussion forums help users connect to others in similar circumstances, such as those returning to college as adults, to build social communities. Instructors also add the human touch through live lectures and email.
For high school students, the open nature of the MOOC platform allows those who support student learning to join in the experience. “Unlike a typical college course, anyone can drop in and take part so students don’t have to go it alone,” says Hoar.