October 29, 2014

Cornell Will Offer Four New MOOCs Next Spring

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This spring, Cornell will embark on its second year featuring MOOCs — massive open online courses — by offering six free courses in collaboration with leading MOOC provider edX.

Four of the courses — Introduction to Global Hospitality Management, Computing Technology Inside Your Smartphone, The Ethics of Eating and Civic Ecology: Reclaiming Broken Places — are new to the University’s MOOC roster, while the other two — Networks and American Capitalism, A History were offered last year. The courses will begin at various times in the spring.

According to a University press release, the four new courses were selected from 15 submissions, a process similar to last year’s. Though anyone can audit the courses from the edX website for free, in order to receive a “Verified Certificate of Achievement,” one must pay a fee that varies by course, according to the edX website.

Without the guaranteed returns of traditional courses, MOOCs are costly — each course requires approximately $70,000 in non-faculty costs and an estimated 200-300 hours for the University to produce, The Sun previously reported. However, professors in a panel last February stated that the main objective of MOOCs is not to turn a profit, but to expand educational fields and promote Cornell visibility.

“We are not in the business of money,” said Joseph Burns Ph.D. ’66, at the February panel. “We are in the business of education — and this is education.”

This notion of educational expansion is exemplified by one of the new MOOCs, Civic Ecology: Reclaiming Broken Places, which will be taught by Prof. Marianne Krasny, natural resources, beginning on April 10. According to Krasny, Civic Ecology is “the first service learning MOOC.”

“We are working on incorporating some of the successful practices from our other online courses — including students sharing ideas and completing course projects,” Krasny said. “For the MOOC, [this will involve] developing a multi-media story of the student’s civic ecology service learning experience.”

Krasny, who has been involved with other online courses, said they carry several advantages.

“The fun part is getting to ‘know’ students of all ages and interests from all over the country,” she said. “In our online courses we do a lot of sharing through a social networking site — so students learn from each other in addition to learning from the instructor and materials.”