A couple of months ago I wrote about Dr. Lisa Dierker at Wesleyan Universityin Connecticut and her plans to teach statistics to 13,000 students from around the world in a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). A professor of psychology at the university and chair of the Quantitative Analysis Center, she designed a course in which students could choose projects on topics that interest them.
Early this week I checked back with her to see how the course had done. The university supported her by paying several students to help mentor online participants, which turned out to be a great experience for both. Student monitored the discussion forums for large blocks of time during the week, responding to posts and launching conversations.
“Wonderful things can happen when the instructor doesn’t jump in,” she said. She often would let the conversation go and several hours later weigh in and have everybody move on.
It was also a great exercise for her, she added.
“When you have to think about 10,000 students you will never talk to or explain things to, it took my materials to a new level. This had to work without my being able to talk to them.” She took a project approach to the MOOC, she added, with videos, lectures and demonstrations so students could go back to any areas they had difficulty with and collaborate with other students online.
The course drew a wide variety of students. A politician took it so he could better understand policy, and a nurse took it so she could go toe to toe with hospital administrators and researchers. A math Ph.D. from Spain signed up because he was teach a lot of statistics courses to earth and environmental science students, and he wanted to make his own course more interesting. Read More…