Faculty engagement in MOOCs benefits students in resident courses

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Teaching massive open online courses (MOOCs) has helped some Penn State University Park faculty members take their teaching to a new level of engagement, which has directly benefited students in their resident courses.

One such faculty member is Darrell Velegol, distinguished professor of chemical engineering. Velegol said MOOCs have certainly changed the way he teaches his resident courses at Penn State.

“I still work with students so that they learn the content they need,” Velegol said. “But my primary focus after working with the MOOC is to instigate and provoke, so that the students reach that transformative zone where they far surpass the original expectations.”

Velegol co-teaches a MOOC called “Creativity, Innovation, and Change.” Velegol’s MOOC focuses on creative uniqueness, building innovative skills, and applying CENTER (Character, Excellence, Ownership, Tenacity, Entrepreneurship, and Relationship) principles to drive personal change.

Matthew Ferrari, assistant professor of biology, co-teaches a MOOC called “Epidemics: The Dynamics of Infectious Diseases,” which looks at the dynamics of the flu, childhood diseases, and malaria, along with how the digital world has revolutionized disease surveillance.

“Developing this MOOC really emphasized how efficient the presentation of foundational material can be when it is well planned and scripted,” Ferrari said. “It has taken me out of the classic ‘show up and discuss’ mindset of lecture.” 

When Ferrari applies the MOOC style of prepared course material to his lectures, he said it does open up a lot more time at the end of the lecture and throughout the semester to “show up and discuss” with students. This leaves more time for Ferrari to discuss practical applications and contemporary issues within the field, to help students gain a better understanding of course material.

Another faculty member who has become even more inspired in his teaching approach since starting a MOOC is Anthony Robinson, assistant professor of geography and director for online geospatial education at the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute.

“Teaching the 'Maps' MOOC on Coursera has helped me understand a wide range of global perspectives on the science and technology of mapping,” Robinson said. “Most of the time it's not easy to see or understand the full range of international perspectives on what you teach. A MOOC can really help you grasp that range of viewpoints.”

Robinson teaches “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution,” which teaches students how to make geographical maps and analyze geographic patterns, along with learning how advances in geospatial technology have changed how people understand geospatial information.

“Going forward I'm really excited to integrate the MOOC experience into a new undergraduate course, with the hope that our on-campus students can participate in the global conversation happening inside the MOOC in order to broaden their own perspectives and make new connections,” Robinson said.

Media Contacts: 

Emma Gosalvez

Public Relations, Teaching & Learning with Technology

Last Updated October 05, 2015