MOOC for teachers: Coursera offers an online teacher training program
Coursera partners with schools of education at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, and Vanderbilt University. Additionally, the company is expanding its network of trainers beyond universities to include cultural institutions such as the Exploratorium and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
“It was the most natural thing in the world,” said Deb Howes, director of digital learning at MOMA. “It’s impossible to reach every teacher who needs and wants our information, so when Coursera said they had this idea, we said absolutely, great, because we have so much to share with teachers. “
The MOMA course is called “The Art of Inquiry” and uses art as a lens to help teachers learn how to teach students to describe the world around them, to infer information from primary sources and foster inquiry-based conversations. “How do you train your students to look deeper and make connections between what they see and what they experience” – this is the question the course will attempt to answer. This is a four-week course for teachers in grades four through twelfth.
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Howes said the museum has offered professional development for teachers on a more limited scale for many years, and working with Coursera will give them a much bigger platform to share what museum trainers have learned along the way.
“It’s an experiment with new ways to provide equally compelling experiences for teachers,” said Bronwyn Bevan, associate director of programs at Exploratorium, another institution offering classes. The Exploratorium has a long history of training teachers in hands-on science learning. The museum will offer classes on how to bring DIY into elementary and middle school learning, as well as a class on integrating engineering into middle school. The Exploratorium’s in-person teacher training courses reach around 500 teachers a year and are very hands-on. Bevan says the museum is excited to find ways to offer the unique Exploratorium experience virtually.
Coursera offered guidance to participating partners on how to organize and shape a classroom for tens of thousands of students. “Teaching a MOOC requires you to be much more organized than you do in a regular classroom because students can’t interact directly with you, the faculty,” Ng said. “It demands a greater level of clarity in everything you say compared to an on-campus class.” He also emphasized short, dynamic video clips and frequent interactive quizzes to keep learners engaged.
But can MOOC-type professional training offer the same advantages as face-to-face training? Norton Grubb, a professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, said the most common and least expensive form of professional development districts currently offered is a one-time lecture by an outside consultant on a topic that teachers can’t control. .
“What works best are groups of teachers within a school working together on a particular problem,” Grubb said. “The important part is the interaction between teachers, which is very difficult to replicate on a MOOC or any other type of online program.” Many of the problems teachers face in the classroom are site-specific and can best be solved over a longer period of time with dedicated peer group effort, he said. Grubb doesn’t think the one-size-fits-all approach is good, and he’s wary of the MOOC approach until it’s proven itself.
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But teachers say they already learn a lot from their peers online via social media; they connect with each other and form learning communities that spread across the globe. “I think we can do some things to spread the expertise with what’s called the internet and well-designed virtual learning communities that could really break down those barriers that exist between teachers,” said Barnett Berry, founder from the Center for Teaching Quality. , a non-profit organization that has been incubating teacher ideas around online professional development for several years.
Berry supports the idea of MOOCs for professional development in theory because he would like teachers to be able to choose and direct their own learning. But he believes success hinges on skilled virtual facilitators who know both the subject matter and how to foster high-quality online discussion and communication to make it work well. And he doesn’t stop there – he would like to see a lot of things change, including more time for teachers to collaborate within schools, share practices and observe each other.