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Two Massachusetts community colleges will test using MOOCs—massive open online courses—through an online-learning initiative founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) and Massachusetts Bay Community College (MassBay) will be the first community colleges to work with edX—which includes the Harvard/MIT initiative—to bring a new teaching model to the classroom. The colleges plan to use the edX platform to connect students with leading MOOC professors from around the world.
What is edX?
“Our technology and innovative teaching methods have the potential to transform the way community college students learn, both in and out of the classroom,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX, the initiative of Harvard and MIT. “Our work with Bunker Hill and MassBay will enable us to work with other state institutions throughout the country to provide excellent educational opportunities on an ever-tightening budget.”
The collaboration between these two community colleges—both of which have a history of offering online and hybrid courses—and edX was made possible through a $1-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant is part of a $9-million investment announced in June to support breakthrough learning models in postsecondary education.
“MOOCs are an exciting innovation. They hold great promise, but are not without challenges—and we are still discovering their full potential,” said Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Gates Foundation. “We believe having diverse options for faculty and students that meet a wide array of learning needs and styles can enhance student engagement, improve educational outcomes and increase college completion rates. We are eager to learn from and share the data that will be generated from these investments in MOOCs.”
Starting with computer science
Beginning in the spring, BHCC and MassBay will offer an adapted version of MIT's Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course. The unique learning experience will allow students to benefit from virtual courses, enhanced by in-class supporting materials and engaging breakouts, according to project officials. The collaboration aims to build upon edX and community college data-driven research to study the advantages of a blended-classroom model that uses edX’s MOOC content, consisting of innovative learning methodologies and game-like educational experiences.
Gates Foundation supports MOOCs at community colleges
“Community college professors are both teachers and mentors to our students. The blended-classroom model allows our professors greater one-to-one contact with our students, allowing for greater course content mastery and application,” said MassBay President John O’Donnell.
BHCC President Mary Fifield added that the opportunity to participate in edX comes on the heels of several highly successful classroom-based student success initiatives at BHCC that have increased student persistence by as much as 32 percent.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” she said.
Copyright ©2014 American Association of Community Colleges