After signing an agreement with online course provider Coursera last month, UNM is in the process of developing more online classes for students.
The agreement, which would take effect in the beginning of the fall semester, would allow UNM faculty to develop Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which would accommodate a larger population of students. MOOCs developed by UNM would also be available for students in other universities nationwide.
The University would also be able to allow students to take online courses offered by Coursera for UNM credit. UNM is in the process of determining which Coursera courses would be eligible to account for university credit.
UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah said that originally, students from any university could take MOOCs with Coursera for free. But he said that recently, universities including UNM are planning to offer MOOCs for a minimal fee.
But Abdallah said the agreement with Coursera is not the first UNM initiative toward the implementation of MOOCs. He said UNM had already signed an agreement with another online course provider Udacity last year to allow students to transfer credit from a Udacity course to UNM.
Abdallah said “properly designed” MOOCs would be beneficial to students.
“They are important because they are a disruptive model to offer courses, which may help some students make up a course or accumulate credit for cheap,” he said. “MOOCs have the potential to lower the cost of some courses, and to allow students to take courses at their own pace.”
Unlike current online courses offered at UNM, MOOCs will be available for students of other universities around the country. Because of that, MOOCs will serve a higher population of students compared to existing online courses.
So far, no UNM department has developed a MOOC yet, Abdallah said. He said that according to the agreement, UNM will have to pay $3,000 for every MOOC that they develop through Coursera’s platform.
Abdallah said nine other universities, including the University of Colorado, the University of Houston and the State University of New York, signed the Coursera agreement with UNM. He said these universities will continue to develop MOOCs in the upcoming school year.
“At this stage, UNM faculty and students will experiment with them and we will monitor their impact,” he said. “I suspect other universities will do the same.”
Kate Messier, a sophomore who studies early childhood education, said although she prefers to take classes in person, she thinks MOOCs would be helpful for nontraditional students at UNM.
“For other students, it would be very helpful in their schedule and if they could learn without having a professor there,” she said. “Some students have a life outside UNM. They have kids and families and jobs, and if they’re trying to get their education, they’ll have their own time to do it.”
But Priyanka Bhakta, a junior who studies chemistry, said MOOCs might not encourage students to strive harder academically.
“Personally, I haven’t taken them because I don’t think that I am a good self-teacher and I don’t think I could keep up with the lecture videos,” she said. “I don’t think I would be motivated enough to stay and just sit there. I would procrastinate and keep it off to the last minute.”
Still, Bhakta said she considers taking MOOCs depending on how efficiently UNM plans to implement them.
Abdallah said MOOCs may benefit faculty members by allowing them to conduct research with a large sample of students and by giving them an opportunity to teach and learn more during summers. But he said some professors are reluctant toward MOOCs.
“Badly designed or misused, MOOCs are simply bad courses,” he said. “Some faculty members are worried about the MOOCs replacing the in-class lecturers and about losing their intellectual property.”
Abdallah said he is optimistic about the future of MOOCs at UNM.
“In a very general way, I believe that ultimately, the MOOCs will become another tool in the toolbox of higher education,” he said.