The First Otis MOOC – A Successful Experiment

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As you may or may not be aware, Otis launched its first MOOC this past Summer, “The Modern Genius: Art and Culture in the 19th Century” taught by Parme Giuntini, Ph.D. We offered the course for free through In summer 2013 we had 817 students enroll and this last fall 2013 we had 814 students enroll.

The goal of our MOOC experiment was really to explore the potential of the platform. It was an opportunity to showcase the work we do at Otis to a wider audience as well as Dr. Giuntini’s expertise. We tailored the course to appeal to the majority audience of MOOC takers, namely those who jump in, surf around, participate once or twice and then move on. The course was low impact and self-directed. However, it did allow opportunities for further engagement with Dr. Giuntini for those interested through live chat forums.

We received positive feedback from active participants, 87% of students in summer rated the course as effective and 94% in the fall. We also had an active participation rate of 12% on discussions that carried through all five weeks of the course. This may not seem like a lot, but the national average participation rate in MOOCs is usually around 3-5% (Chronicle of Higher Ed.) in addition to seeing a steep drop off in engagement after Week 3.

What we saw in the MOOC was a potential vehicle to publicize our expertise and share that knowledge with a wider, international audience. I consider those goals met! As to next steps, I hope we will continue to investigate and consider what the MOOC can offer Otis, always putting the student experience, effective pedagogy, learning and quality first!

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