Gates Foundation gives UT Arlington about $100,000 for online education conference

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently gave the University of Texas at Arlington a $97,200 grant to host a conference where educators will discuss the effectiveness of a new trend in online learning, the Star-Telegram reports.

Researchers from across the U.S., Canada and Australia will talk about their research on how massive open online courses — or MOOCs — can personalize learning and change the dynamics of traditional forms of education.

UT Arlington was selected to host MOOCs and Emerging Educational Models: Policy, Practice and Learning a Dec. 5-6 conference, in collaboration with the MOOC Research Initiative, which the foundation also funded, at Athabasca University in Canada.

George Siemens, an expert in distance education who is behind the initiative, said UTA was picked as a host because of its strong presence in online learning.

Online courses are gaining popularity in colleges and universities because of the outreach and flexibility, Siemens said. A massive open online class can have 200,000 global participants and offer up-to-date educational opportunities for people including students, doctors and even construction workers, he said.

“The big distinction is that our need for learning has changed. Rarely can you enter a career right out of college and stay there the rest of your life. MOOCs, I think, are a reflection in which the learning needs of society of have changed and universities haven’t,” Siemens said.