Tag Archives: MOOCs

Reddit Ask Me Anything for McGill’s MOOC on Natural Disasters


What causes natural disasters? Can you avoid them?

To kick off the third run of their Natural Disasters MOOC on edX, Professors John Stix and John Gyakum will be hosting their first Reddit AMA!

AMA mean “Ask Me Anything” so questions about the strange weather we are experiencing, the current ‘Super El Nino’, the chances of another ice storm, the professors’ research, and more, are all fair game.

As of 12:30PM today (Tuesday, Jan 19th) the link will be live on the TLS website on our Natural Disasters MOOC page.

We look forward to seeing you there!

From the Campus to MOOC: Reflections of a Student Assistant


McGillX offered its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the edX platform in January 2014 and has now offered two MOOCs, started a third and has one more more in the pipe.  Serving as a student assistant for CHEM181x: Food for Thought, I was myself a learner in a new environment. To be honest, I had never heard of a MOOC until I was offered the position in November 2013. In joining the McGillX team, my role would be to both assist in the course development and serve as one of two discussion moderators. Continue reading From the Campus to MOOC: Reflections of a Student Assistant

The Body Matters – BODY101x – McGill’s 3rd MOOC has begun


McGill has just released its third MOOC, The Body Matters (BODY101x) on the edX platform. This course is 10 weeks long and focuses on benefits of physical activity, how to prevent injuries as well as what to do when an injury occurs. Dr. Ian Shrier is the primary instructor (@ianshrier) along with many other guests who are all experts in their field. Over 23,000 students have enrolled from over 180 countries. Have a look at a more detailed description of this MOOC along with the intro video: Continue reading The Body Matters – BODY101x – McGill’s 3rd MOOC has begun

Food for Thought – CHEM181x – McGill’s First MOOC has begun


McGill has released its first MOOC, Food for Thought (CHEM181x). This course was developed by Teaching and Learning Services from an on-campus course titled “World of Chemistry: Food” that has been very popular since the mid 1980s. Extensive work has been done with the the three instructors (David Harpp, Joe Schwarcz and Ariel Fenster part of the Office for Science & Society) to redesign their course to take advantage of some of the tools available in the MOOC. They are a dynamic trio with a passion for good science about food. The description of the MOOC is:

Eating and understanding the nuances of food has become a complicated and often confusing experience. Virtually every day brings news about some “miracle food” that we should be consuming or some “poison” we should be avoiding. One day it’s tomatoes to prevent cancer, then flaxseed against heart disease or soybeans for menopause. At the same time we may be warned about trans fats, genetically modified foods, aspartame or MSG. Dietary supplements may be touted as the key to health or a factor in morbidity. According to some, dairy products are indispensable while others urge us to avoid them. The same goes for meat, wheat and soy; the list goes on. This course will shed light on the molecules that constitute our macro and micro nutrients and will attempt to clarify a number of the food issues using the best science available. Other topics to be presented will include the diet-cancer relationship, the link between diet and cardiovascular disease, food-borne illnesses, food additives and weight control.

There is also an introductory video that gives you a teaser about what the course will be about.

This MOOC is available for free for anyone with access to a computer. It has just begun this week and will run for the next 10 weeks online. If you are interested, register now!

Robotutor marking student homework


By Terry Hébert, Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Finally something (someone) who can teach thousands of students at a time. I give you… Robotutor!

Is this where our flirtation with MOOCs will lead? What are we trying to achieve with MOOCs anyway? That has never been made clear to me. I could imagine MOOCs as a way to prepare students FOR university but I still have grave concerns about what they mean for the future of universities if we remove the real interactions between professors and students and we stop pushing both to be their best.

TENS of thousands of students across the world will log in to online classrooms this week. A large portion of them will be learning to write code in computer science courses. The scale and reach of massive open online courses (MOOCs) is growing year on year, and many argue they have the potential to vastly improve access to education. But size is also their biggest weakness: a human teacher can’t guide, correct and give feedback to legions of students all working simultaneously.

Read the full article from NewScientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029444.400-robotutor-marks-the-homework-of-a-class-of-thousands.html

McGillX MOOCs – Librarians in the Virtual Classroom


Kristen Emmett, graduate student in the McGill School of Information Studies (SIS), writes about some of the intersections between librarianship and teaching in higher education.

I wrote in a previous post about how librarians were getting more involved in the teaching on university campuses across North America (see the post here). Now I’d like to offer a glimpse into how librarians are actively playing a role in advancing and innovating teaching and learning right here at McGill.

Set to begin in January 2014, the first McGillX MOOC, CHEM181X: Food for Thought, is currently in the late stages of development with the help of an extensive team. The team consists of the course’s three professors, Ariel Fenster, David N. Harpp, and Joe Schwarz; educational consultants from our own Teaching and Learning Services (TLS); and April Colosimo, liaison librarian for the Schulich Library of Science and Engineering.

April is one of several librarians collaborating with faculty and education specialists in the early stages of McGill’s involvement with MOOCs. As the Chem181x team’s librarian, April’s current role revolves around copyright and licensing issues. She works to update datasets, assists in the sourcing and citing of images, and points to open-source alternatives. Her job, as quoted from Daniel Boyer, Associate Dean of User Services, is to “propose creative solutions to information needs”. April is enthusiastic about the possibilities for involvement during the course, and although she is unsure if it’s sustainable to be the contact librarian for a course the size of a typical MOOC, she hopes to contribute by providing links to other courses or open-education software, or by producing guides for further reading tailored to each module for students interested in pursuing further a particular aspect of a course.

Low completion rates are often a criticism against MOOCs, but April does not see completion rates as an accurate reflection of how people use MOOCs. She has enrolled in a number of MOOCs herself, and feels that the flexibility they allow and the ability to pick and choose what you engage with is what makes them great learning tools, especially for lifelong learning. When asked about how she feels MOOCs will affect the future of universities, April responded that she did not think MOOCs threatened the viability of the traditional university model. MOOCs will “support current activities, especially continuing education, rather than replace the university.” She appreciates the effect MOOCs are having on the discussion about student learning and the learning experience, and believes the attention “will have a positive effect on teaching and the mindful use of educational technology, and a stimulating impact on libraries”.

April also sees MOOCs as having a positive effect on libraries. MOOCs are bringing pedagogy into the library and librarians into contact with the research on teaching and learning, as well as the educational development work happening at McGill. It’s early yet, but “the more experience we get with these courses, the more we become embedded, and the more we can answer questions about copyright, conduct research, and work with the data these courses produce”.

McGill Provost reflects on future of the University


By Jennie Ferris, Teaching and Learning Services

What are MOOCs, why are they important, and did you know that the concept was actually developed here in Canada? In his recently published article “Questioning higher education”, McGill Provost Anthony C. Masi reflects upon the disruptive role and possibilities of educational technologies at university, both in physical spaces and (a)synchronous virtual spaces. He identifies three initial challenges for universities brought about by technology-driven changes in learning: “digital natives”’ expectations for technology use in the classroom, helping students develop information literacy competencies, and limitations of existing physical spaces.

The future of universities’ role in education is an open question, with significant change in educational models and institutions anticipated over the upcoming years. There are a number of outstanding questions requiring further exploration with regards to MOOCs, ranging broadly from impact upon alumni relations, to equity for on-campus vs. online students, to support and workload for professors. Noting wryly that the plural of anecdote is not data, the Provost makes the case for the importance of learning analytics in informing conversations on these and other questions.