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MOOCs for kids too

When SLJ recently asked me to reflect on the edtech trends of the year, one of the trends that first came to mind was the emergence of the MOOC.

MOOCs (massive open online courses) are about open, participatory, distributed, networked learning.  They are sandboxes for independent, lifelong learners.

Folks have been talking about and testing MOOCs since around 2008, as a concept often attributed to Stephen Downes,  George Siemens, and Dave Cormier.

But a dramatic proof of concept was a Fall 2011 artificial intelligence course that attracted more than 160,000 students,  This was followed by the launch of higher education courses on the Coursera platform (see my post) which now includes 33 universities and serves more than 1.8 million Courserians.  MIT launched MITx, Harvard launched edX, and other universities joined the movement.  I participated in Google’s international Power Searching MOOC last summer.

MOOCs don’t necessarily lead to official certifications. They can reach tens of thousands of students of all ages, regardless of geography or social class.  They have the potential to be equalizers. MOOCs have the potential to disrupt traditional education platforms.  And experts predict they will.

My SLJ editors wondered if MOOCs had any relevance to K12 learning.  Certainly, there is no stopping any interested K12 student who wants to join a MOOC aimed at an older demographic.

But last week, the University of Miami Global Academy–an online high school sponsored by UM’s Division of Continuing and International Education. launched what may be the first free MOOC for high school students–a three-week test prep class designed to get students ready for the Collage Board’s SAT Subject Test in Biology.

The course is taught by UMGA lead science instructor Jennifer Taylor, an experienced online instructor.  It runs live via Skype and a CMS, allowing students to ask real-time questions.  Sessions are recorded and available for review as archived videos on the website.  The MOOC uses Barron’s SAT Subject Test: Biology E/M as an optional text, but students are encouraged to read recommended chapters prior to the live sessions.

The plan is to offer the course once a semester.  And if it works, UMGA promises that more high school MOOCs will follow.

I believe many of our high school students are going to take advantage of this free test prep, as well as other opportunities for learning beyond testing moving forward!  I also believe that, moving forward, librarians will be influential in connecting the right kid with the right MOOC.

Want to know a little more about MOOCs?

Dave Cormier described the philosophy behind MOOCs in this video back in 2010.

And this video introduces the 2011 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class:

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Hello!
    I am developing the OC@ADLC – The Open Classroom at ADLC. We offered #BEFA12, a course about digital identity and digital literacy for HS students in November/12. Please check it out. Version 2 will be offered in April 2013 – Free and open to any High School student.


  1. […] When I wrote about MOOCs (massive open online courses) back in 2012, we were just beginning to see their potential for […]

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