‘Deep dive’ in popular fields is aim of next generation of MOOCs

Enabling students taking massive open online courses to dive deeper into learning and develop mastery in a particular subject are the aims of a new generation of MOOCs called “Specializations” launched today by the online learning platform Coursera.

Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland have teamed up to offer the first trans-institutional Specialization with a sequence of coordinated MOOCs titled “Mobile Cloud Computing with Android” that focuses on connecting handheld devices with cloud services. The Maryland portion of the sequence begins Jan. 21.

“Our faculty have been in the vanguard in exploring how to best leverage online platforms to use what we’ve learned, and what we teach, at Vanderbilt to innovate education worldwide,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said. “With this new approach, we’re witnessing true transformation in education and I am thrilled that Vanderbilt is helping to lead the way.”

Doug Schmidt, professor of computer science and computer engineering and co-leader of the new specialization, taught one of Vanderbilt’s first MOOCs in the spring of 2013.

“Teaching a MOOC by myself was exhilarating, but the knowledge and skills needed to master a topic like concurrent and networked software development are far more complex than any one instructor could ever hope to cover in a single course,” Schmidt said.

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