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CCV Offers "Massive Online" Course

For the past two years the academic community has been abuzz over Massive Open Online Courses – known as MOOCs. Now Community College of Vermont is testing the MOOC waters.

MOOCs are often free online courses with no prerequisites.  Typically no credit or certification is offered when the course is completed.

“That’s a very different model from your standard online college credit course,” says  Eric Sakai, Community College of Vermont’s Dean of Academic Technology.

Sakai says this month, CCV will offer a free open enrollment course called “On the Hunt For the Perfect Job”.

The five-week course on how to find a job will include online reading material, self-assessments and a discussion forum involving the course’s two co-instructors.

Typically only about 10 percent of those who enroll in massive online courses complete them, but Sakai says it’s not necessary to finish to get something out of a MOOC course.

“We’re assuming that here, too, we may see a lot of people that sign on but don’t go all the way through the five weeks. They may find resources that help with this or that task and call it good and move on,” he says.

The Massive Open Online Courses offered by some large universities can attract thousands of enrollees.  CCV expects a much small response; so much so they’re calling theirs a LOOC – a Little Open Online Course.

Sakai says there may be ways to develop more of these online resources so they can be used by students to compliment CCV’s classroom offerings.

“Rather than going to class to listen to a professor lecture, the idea is that they would view or read or access content on the Web in advance of the class session and then in the class they have the time to do problem solving, hands on learning, group work,  that sort of thing,” he explains.

How to harness MOOCs and use them in the context of college academic programs is a subject of much debate. 
Jason Mittell, Professor of Film and Media Culture and American Studies at Middlebury College, says the use of MOOCs by colleges is very much in flux, but there’s been a push to make them comparable to standard courses offered by universities, which he thinks would be a mistake.

“As a faculty member I think that we should be, if not proprietary over the term ‘course’, at least skeptical of anything that calls itself a course that does not follow the progressive model of continued learning over a period of time,” says Mittell.

He argues that massive online courses can’t match the quality of learning that takes place in an educational environment where there’s more direct engagement with professors and other students.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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