Michael Starbird, a University of Texas math professor, was in his element one day last week, teaching students to puzzle their way through the concept of infinity using an endless supply of make-believe golf balls and pingpong balls, The Republic reports.
He’s done it a hundred times, but never quite like this, with a video camera rolling and a behind-the-scenes staff of editors, producers and students who will package this lesson and others into “Effective Thinking Through Mathematics,” his online course free to anyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection.
Starbird, who has an easy manner and mostly gray hair, is eager to see how the course will be received when it’s released in the spring semester — and, more broadly, how such “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, evolve in the rapidly changing landscape of higher education.
… In the past year or so, scores of universities have joined this ever-expanding experiment, offering MOOCs generally for free — and for no credit — typically through such online learning platforms as Coursera, Udacity and edX.
Most MOOCs feature video of a faculty member lecturing, with charts, maps and other graphics for highlights. Online discussion forums allow students to converse with each other, faculty members and teaching assistants.
Quizzes, reading assignments and separate online research are often part of the package. In some cases, students can get a certificate for doing well, but it generally wouldn’t count toward a degree or workforce training.
Only a handful of schools in Texas offer MOOCs.