Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By Way of Introduction

Hi! I am Ray Schroeder, the convener of the "Online Learning Today... and Tomorrow" eduMOOC (massive open online course). Click on the title of this posting or here to visit the home site of the MOOC

I hope to use this blog to chronicle the development and progress of the MOOC as well as to share some thoughts about the weekly sessions as we move through the summer.

Briefly, about me - I am a professor emeritus and director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS). I began my academic teaching career as an Instructor on our Urbana-Champaign campus in the 1971-72 academic year. Forty years later, I continue to each each semester. I publish a number of blogs - with a minimum of a dozen postings daily for the past decade. I also carry half a dozen Twitter personae as I tweet on a variety of topics in higher education and for the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. I am most proud to have received the inaugural Frank Mayadas Leadership Award from the Sloan Consortium where I am an inaugural Sloan-C Fellow. My home page includes scores of free and open resources from speeches, presentations, etc. that I have made over the past few years. There's even a link to a commencement address from back in 1984 - looking toward the "coming information age."

In May 2011, I was invited to present a keynote on the topic of "The Open Future of Higher Education" at the e-Cornucopia Conference at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. This wonderful conference led by Catheryn Cheal, and the great group of people attending, prompted me to think deeply about the current state of online learning in higher education, the broader context (economic, technological, and political) in which we teach/learn, and the future.

On May 31 at a regular staff meeting, I asked our team if we would be willing to consider launching a MOOC to further investigate these topics. Some of the most intelligent, energetic, talented and insightful people on this planet are on our team at COLRS where they encourage, support, provide pedagogical perspectives, develop technological solutions and promote online teaching, learning and researchh among the faculty of UIS. The team agreed - though I think they knew better than I was willing to acknowledge, just how big an undertaking this would be, but they tolerated me nevertheless.

I wanted to be sure we finished this MOOC before the fall term began. We have about 350 online class sections each semester at UIS where 38% of our credit hours are online and more than half of our 5,000 students take at least one online class each year. The first weeks of class are a busy time for us. That meant that we had to put this project on an insanely tight schedule - put it together in three weeks, announce, launch at the beginning of the fourth week.

So, we went about identifying key trend areas where we thought change was afoot. The COLRS staff have a wide network of colleagues in online learning. We initially identified about twenty leaders in our field whom we thought would make great panelists. With the inevitable conflicts of schedule for the busy people we invited, we added a few others to fill slots. We called upon UIS faculty members associated with our unit, Distinguished Professor Karen Swan and Professor Michael Cheney to help us as moderators of sessions. And, we invited the deeply-collaborative e-learning strategist at our sister campus in Urbana-Champaign, Glenda Morgan to moderate another of the sessions.

In just three weeks after I mentioned the idea at our staff meeting, we put the framework together, arranged the panels, and announced eduMOOC to the world. Marc Parry (@marcparry) of the Chronicle of Higher Ed Wired Campus blog wrote about the MOOC and enrollments headed skyward. As I write this post, we have 1,538 registered (I had thought we would end up with one thousand fewer than that), and the number is increasing by the minute. The visionary Wayne Mackintosh, director of the OER Foundation, has been most supportive. Many at the university have been very supportive of this as well, particularly Jane Treadwell, dean of the library; Tulio Llosa, director of Educational Technology; Provsot Pardie; our long-time supporter and friend Chancellor Harry Berman; and many others.

Honestly, we are learning and adapting as we go (that is not all bad - one of our goals is to innovate, not to merely replicate what has been done before). We are making adjustments to the growing enrollments. We are documenting our efforts. We will offer the opportunity to all who participate to evaluate the experience. We will share our findings.

I hope to post often. I will share some of the behind-the-scenes work, changes and updates. I will also share my personal thoughts on many of the topics as they arise.

I plan that future posts will be shorter!

See you in the MOOC!

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