The advantage of learning from MOOC mistakes

When it comes to MOOCs, the University of New Mexico (UNM) is leapfrogging to the head of the line. By waiting until now to offer its first massive open online course, UNM has no doubt learned from mistakes made elsewhere.

MOOCs have been around for a few years. Initially, the MOOC promise was that it would democratize higher education by dramatically lowering costs and reaching out to unlimited numbers of students.

mooc-advantages-learningIn fact, two years ago The New York Times proclaimed 2012 the “Year of the MOOC.”

Since then, much of the hype has abated, and in August of last year the Chronicle of Higher Education observed that — at least in California — “the MOOC revolution came to a halt unceremoniously.”

Or, as National Public Radio put it last month, “if 2012 was the ‘Year of the MOOC’ … 2013 might be dubbed the year that online education fell back to earth.”

UNM will launch its first MOOC when Professor Greg Heileman’s class on Web Application Architectures gets underway in several weeks. Unlike many other MOOCs in which the course and content are provided by a non-university company, all of the content in Heileman’s course will come from UNM.

It will be information from a class he already teaches, although it will still be delivered via a private company’s technology.

It’s notable that Heileman, UNM’s associate provost for curriculum, was the one picked to launch UNM into the age of MOOCs.

In recent interviews, Heileman described his course as something of an experiment. UNM sees MOOCs as “the next step in distant education,” and has signed an agreement with the company Coursera that allows the university to place the content of Heileman’s course on Coursera’s delivery system.

The cost to the university was $3,000.

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