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Business Officer Magazine

Secondary Considerations

University-sponsored MOOCs also hit their mark with high school students.

By Nancy Mann Jackson

Most massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer college-level instruction targeted to adults. But a few providers of MOOCs have found that the sweet spots for this educational vehicle may be high school students and teachers. (See also "Mind the MOOCs" in the July/August 2013 issue of Business Officer.)

Last year, the University of Miami developed the first MOOC specifically for high school students and attracted interest from students and high school teachers across the country, says Craig Wilson, associate dean of the university's Division of Continuing and International Education. The MOOC, offered through the University of Miami's Global Academy (UMGA), was targeted to students preparing to take the SAT subject matter test in biology. While a number of individual students across the country participated, several high school biology teachers also used the MOOC with their entire classes.

"We felt that high school students needed to be more engaged," Wilson says. "Our online high school is highly interactive, and offering a MOOC was a chance to share that interactive style with high school students across the country."

Since that first offering, UMGA has offered a second MOOC to prepare students to take the Advanced Placement calculus exam. In addition to STEM courses, Wilson says he sees potential for high school writing courses to be offered via MOOCs. "There are plenty of tests to help prepare for, and this seems to be an area where MOOCs can really be beneficial for high school students," he says.

Courses for Students and Teachers, Too

San Jose State Plus, a group of MOOCs offered by California's San Jose State University (SJSU), has found a broad audience among high school students, says Catheryn Cheal, associate vice president and senior academic technology officer at SJSU. Plus—which focuses on courses that are frequently wait-listed on campus and required for graduation—offers several MOOCs, for just $150 each. These courses are available for credit to veterans, current SJSU students, and students in high school or community college. San Jose State Plus not only allows more students to take the courses but also introduces more high school students to the university.

But students aren't the only ones benefiting from MOOCs at the high school level. Teachers, many of whom are now expected to teach online courses themselves, are the newest audience for MOOC developers. Coursera, one of the leading MOOC providers, recently announced that it will begin offering teacher development courses for K‒12 teachers, available at no charge.

The teacher education MOOCs will focus on the skills teachers need to effectively design and teach online courses and will be provided by seven leading schools of education, such as Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Johns Hopkins University School of Education. In addition to the seven universities, other partners providing these courses include the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; the Exploratorium, San Francisco; and New Teacher Center, headquartered in Santa Cruz, California.

"We believe that helping teachers improve their skills is an important contribution that we can make to the education of students everywhere," says Julia Stiglitz, Coursera's director of business development and strategic partnerships. "We are truly excited about the possibilities that having these courses available for free online, to be used independently or in a blended learning capacity, will open up for teachers, schools, and districts."

NANCY MANN JACKSON, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

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