Vanderbilt has been a member of the CIRTL Network since 2006.

Locally, CIRTL efforts at Vanderbilt are led by Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Orrin H. Ingram Chair of Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering and neurological surgery, and CIRTL funds have supported the Center for Teaching’s Teaching-as-Research (TAR) Fellows program and Blended and Online Learning Design (BOLD) Fellows program.

The NSF’s WIDER program (Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence-Based Reforms) “seeks to substantially increase the scale of application of highly effective methods of STEM teaching and learning in institutions of higher education, by employing instructional materials and methods that have a convincing evidentiary basis of effectiveness.”

These days, if you want to “substantially increase the scale” of something in higher education, you look at MOOCs. Our goal is to leverage CIRTL core ideas and findings over the last ten years to develop MOOCs that prepare large numbers of future STEM faculty to implement and advance evidence-based, high-impact teaching practices.

We will draw on the expertise and experience of leaders across the CIRTL Network to produce two six-week MOOCs. The first course, launching next fall, will introduce participants to foundational evidence-based practices in undergraduate STEM teaching and learning.

The second will provide deeper and broader understanding of evidence-based teaching and develop participants’ skills in gathering and analyzing data about their own students’ learning.

As I noted above, we are designing these MOOCs to support local learning communities of future (and likely current) STEM faculty.

It is common in MOOCs to see small, student-organized study groups form around the world, as students geographically close to each other seek out fellow students to learn from and with. Our plan is to design for these study groups, building them into the structure of the MOOCs themselves.

The MOOCs will provide optional discussion questions and activities for local learning communities to explore the MOOC material more deeply, and local learning communities will in turn be asked to share their ideas and perspectives with the global learning community organized by the MOOCs. Those participating in the MOOCs individually will have a valuable learning experience.

Those participating as part of MOOC-supported learning communities will have an even richer experience. Many of the CIRTL Network institutions have already committed to hosting these local learning communities, and we expect that many others will form around the world.