UW pilot MOOC shows hunger for learning

Massive Open Online Courses have allowed more than 30,000 people worldwide to enroll in a single University of Wisconsin class, which one professor said indicates students’ simple desire to learn for the sake of learning, the Badger Herald reports.

When a teacher sees a positive response to that kind model, they have to respond, learning sciences professor Kurt Squire said.

UW’s first MOOC class launched last week with the “Video Games and Learning” course. The class is about the kinds of thinking and learning that goes into video games, gaming culture and the benefits and drawbacks of digital gameplay, Constance Steinkuehler, UW associate professor of digital media, said.

Steinkuehler said she and Squire decided to distill “Video Games and Learning” into a MOOC because it is a course that fills up every year at UW and has a wait list. People interested in these ideas should have access to the content’s main concepts and ideas even if they are unable to get into the in-person course, she said.

More than 30,000 people from all over the world are enrolled in the MOOC, Squire said. It has been really “awe inspiring” to see thousands of people engaged in the content, and it is one way to see the global reach of the Internet, he said.

“It has been humbling to realize how many people are driven to learn and see that if the resources are made available, how many people will really clamor for it,” Squire said.

The capacity teachers have to influence and reach people reminds them why they started teaching in the first place, he said.

However, Steinkuehler said she has found it challenging to teach to such a large virtual audience.

“When you teach you’re used to seeing students and actually even in a large lecture class you really pay attention to how are they responding…you feel like you have a sort of connection to your students,” Steinkuehler said. “Not having that was hard.”

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