College of Education gets $571,000 to create MOOCs

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The Lipscomb University College of Education, through the college’s Ayers Institute for Teacher Learning and Innovation, has begun development of what are expected to be Lipscomb’s first free MOOCs (massive open online courses). The 10 MOOCs will prepare teachers to change their instruction by implementing the Tennessee Academic Standards into their classroom curriculum. The first three MOOCs are expected to be available by September.

The MOOCs will be financed through a $571,000 grant from the Governor’s Innovation Fund of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which funded the development of several other MOOCs across the state in 2013. Increased development of MOOCs statewide is a part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative to enhance Tennesseans’ access to higher education.

Lipscomb is expected to be the only university in the state offering MOOCs focused on the state standards and one of only two Nashville universities offering them in education topics at this time.

While the MOOCs will be specifically designed for undergraduate teaching majors, called pre-service teachers, anyone will be able to log on and take the free courses. “They will be offered in a nonlinear, unfacilitated format, so they can be taken at any time and at the student’s own pace,” said Julia Osteen, MOOC program director at the Ayers Institute.

The Ayers Institute will also develop a facilitated version of the courses, which can be taken by individuals for college credit at Lipscomb. MOOC students will pay Lipscomb a discounted fee to receive academic credit, and depending on other universities’ academic requirements and transfer policies, that credit could potentially be transferred to other universities.

The courses will be designed to be incorporated easily into teacher preparation programs in universities across the state, Osteen said. As a result, other universities will have the option to simply use the free video courses and facilitator’s guides as part of their curriculum, or they can agree to provide course credit, at their own determined tuition rate, for students who complete the facilitated versions of the courses on their own.

“The Tennessee Academic Standards are changing the way teaching and learning look in the state’s classrooms, and Lipscomb has been deeply involved in helping the state’s teachers maximize those possibilities,” said Candice McQueen, senior vice president, dean of the College of Education and executive director of the Ayers Institute. “When we were brainstorming ways to get the word out to as many teachers as possible, a MOOC seemed like the natural format to take the resources we have and share them broadly with people in many different levels of the teaching profession.”

The new MOOCs are one of three ways the Ayers Institute uses the Internet to bring professional development to Tennessee teachers. Ayers is also providing state standards training to education faculty at Tennessee’s universities through its INVEST video modules, also funded by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, as well as college access training for high school and youth counselors through online courses in partnership with the Tennessee College Access and Success Network.

Implemented in 2011, the Tennessee State Standards require students to show more critical thinking, problem-solving and analysis with greater constructive response. These enhancements require teachers to teach in different ways, and the state has established several programs to help existing and new teachers best implement the standards in the classroom.

MOOCs, which have captured the attention of educators, the public and potential students around the globe in the past few years, are generally free, online-only courses that can be taken for academic credit.