University doing big things with ‘massive’ courses

By Nick Carne

The University of Adelaide is taking “massive” steps forward in a whole new world of global education. The University has just been made a Contributing Charter Member of edX, the non-profit, open-source learning platform established by Harvard University and MIT in the US.

The appointment gives Adelaide a seat at the top table as the most prestigious provider of Massive Open Online Courses (invariably known as MOOCs) continues to grow and evolve, as well as opening opportunities for new pathways into postgraduate studies.

“We are delighted about it. This is the highest level of partnership there is within edX and it is anticipated that only about 15 institutions globally will become Contributing Charter members,” said the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Learning), Professor Philippa Levy.

MOOCs are what the name suggests. Courses are delivered online and open to anyone, and they are massive because of the potential audience. The University of Adelaide has produced nine courses since joining edX in the middle of 2014, and they have attracted nearly 400,000 enrolments from 200 countries.

Most importantly, most of those 400,000 knew little if anything about the University before signing up for a MOOC, but now have become virtual alumni. “They do a MOOC with us, they enjoy it and find it’s useful for their career development and that means they know what we can provide and may consider doing a traditional course with us,” Prof Levy said.

The University’s MOOCs are offered under the banner of AdelaideX, and the subject matter is as diverse as project management, wine, cyberwar and addiction management. You can find out more about each of them here.

MOOCs wine course

On set during the creation of The University of Adelaide MOOC ‘The World of Wine’

All MOOCs are delivered free to everyone (that’s the whole point of the edX concept), but a small fee is charged if students want to be assessed and receive formal acknowledgment of achievement.

The value to the University comes not only from the international exposure, but also from the flow on effect of being able to apply new expertise to develop resources for on-campus students.

And the next stage is even more exciting. edX has developed the concept of a MicroMasters to provide a new approach to education in professional, career-focused areas. It’s a global first.

Four MOOCs can be strung together to create a standalone MicroMaster qualification, with the potential to use this as an alternative pathway into a traditional full Masters program.

The University of Adelaide expects to launch its first MicroMasters in ‘Big Data’ in May this year, with enrolments opening in February.