First UO MOOC attracts a global crowd for English instruction

Leslie Opp-Beckman and Deborah Healey

The UO's first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, drew approximately 19,000 students worldwide, according to the course's developers.

The MOOC, "Shaping the Way We Teach English," began April 7. As it was winding down, the course's leaders estimated that about 2,000 of the students, or almost 11 percent, would successfully complete it, said Deborah Healey, an instructor and a developer of the course. The average completion rate for MOOCs is currently 5 percent.

The just-beginning second part of the course has enrolled 15,000 students so far, including some who took the first course, Healey said. The MOOC approaches the teaching of English as a foreign language, especially for those interested in a career in English instruction. It was developed at the UO with support from the U.S. Department of State and is offered through a partnership with Coursera.

"This MOOC is 'pilot' on so many levels," said Leslie Opp-Beckman, director of eLearning for AEI, a program of the UO's Department of Linguistics. "I'm pleasantly surprised given the short notice for the launch. Our final agreements with Coursera were in place just days before we launched."

While this is the first time to teach English as a freely offered MOOC, Opp-Beckman said, the UO has been offering online training for English for 15 to 20 years, but never with more than 2,000 students at a time.

The majority of the enrollment came from outside North America, Healey said.

"Some participants are from countries where long-running infrastructure has been in place, but the MOOC also has drawn in students from other countries previously not seen by the UO," she said. "The discussion component has appeared to have had very strong in engagement by the students."

The most success appears to have been by students working together.

The two courses will not be offered again this year, but will be available twice in 2015 -- the third year of the current agreement with the Department of State.

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