Higher education partners with Hollywood to produce a MOOC

This is what happens when MOOCs, marketing and mass media collide:

AMC, the cable television channel, is using a MOOC to promote a popular show, “The Walking Dead” .

The channel has partnered with the University of California, Irvine (IC Irvine), and four Ph.Ds to teach the course titled “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead.” According the official registration page, the course explores the spread of disease, social structures, and the role of the government in public health, among other themes.

Just take a look at the courseware to see that is not a crazy, stupid course:

  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—is survival just about being alive?
  • Social order and structures—from the farm and the prison to Woodbury
  • Social identity, roles, and stereotyping—as shown through leaders like Rick and the Governor
  • The role of public health in society—from the CDC to local community organizations
  • The spread of infectious disease and population modeling—swarm!
  • The role of energy and momentum in damage control—how can you best protect yourself?
  • Nutrition in a post-apocalyptic world—are squirrels really good for you?
  • Managing stress in disaster situations—what’s the long-term effect of always sleeping with one eye open?

The course has engaging lectures, interviews, articles and academic resources. It uses key scenes from the show to illustrate aspects of learning. Students are able to participate in large and small group discussions and test their learning with quizzes.

Instructors use video lectures, discussion forums and social media to provide learning materials throughout the eight-week course.

The platform used for this MOOC is the Canvas LMS.

Experts agree that this partnership between higher education and Hollywood is groundbreaking and provides an interesting insight into the future of marketing, education and educational content.

The impact in the corporate learning industry

Another key trend of 2014 will affect the corporate learning sector.

It is no longer enough to train your employees to do their jobs more effectively.

A successful learning and development program should encourage the growth of the organization while establishing a culture of continuous learning.

The $60 billion corporate learning industry is technologically outdated. This year we will see how some leading organizations start to implement new, advanced technologies and platforms such as Open EdX and Canvas.

Learning in the workplace is going to change dramatically.

What to expect from education technology in 2014

The one guaranteed constant in education technology is change, and that change is definitely accelerating.

Among all trends in education technology expected to make waves into 2014, we’ve found the following from a report in The Journal.

  • Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) into classroom programs. Tablets are less expensive devices and are seen as a better option than traditional laptops. Learning is increasingly becoming mobile and sites are implementing responsive designs to accommodate all forms of technology.
  • Social media as a teaching and learning tool. When combined with meaningful engagement, social media technology can be a powerful tool to reinforce learning and establish effective communication skills.
  • Digital Badges. They serve to validate the importance of after-school programs and other informal learning opportunities.
  • Open Educational Resources (OER). They will soon be widely used in K-12.
  • iPads’ growth. Learning has become increasingly interactive and can happen anytime, anywhere.
  • Learning analytics. They can help instructors identify struggling students; they can boost course and college completion.
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) for blended and online learning continue to gain a stronghold, mainly when it is about creating flipped classrooms. It results in improved student performance.
  • Gamification of education. Effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in productivity and creativity among learners, because they impact positively on problem solving skills, motivation and engagement.


From MOOCs to SPOCs, or Small Private On-line Course: a successful learning experiment

Why not restructure the content of a MOOC into a flipped classroom Small Private On-line Course (or SPOC)?

This is what a professor of the University of Massachusetts has done –and “so far, the results have been extremely positive,” he says.

“Students are using the online materials, participating actively in the class and their exam scores are significantly higher than when the course was taught in conventional lecture format.”

He chronicles the process and findings from his blended learning experiment here.

The difference between a “MOOC unit” (one week) an a “SPOC unit” (one day) is shown in the figure below:

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 11.41.31 AM

France's top universities launch their MOOC offer in January 2014

The France Université Numérique FUN’s online MOOCs courses will begin in January 2014.

Courses are designed by France’s top higher education institutions. “The main goal is to make higher education courses accessible to everyone, by combining course videos, course evaluations, tutorials, peer correction and online interaction with teachers,” they state.

There will be various disciplines: mathematics, history, philosophy, biology, law, etc. Two MOOCs in mathematics have been created by Cédric Villani, winner of the Fields Medals (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for mathematicians). École Centrale Paris has designed a course on sustainable development, while Panthéon Assas-Paris II University has created one on justice.

The France Digital University project, built through Open EdX’s software [disclosure: our company integrates this platform commercially], was launched in October 2013; along with Chinese universities’ project, this is one of the most important MOOC initiative in the world.



Khan Academy will provide MOOCs to Comcast's low-income customers

Khan Academy –the non-profit education website that covers everything from beginner computer programming to chemistry, history and finance– will provide free digital education materials to Comcast’s low-income broadband subscribers.

This multi-year and multi-million dollar partnership will bring MOOCs into the homes of lower-income learners –and help fulfill one of the promises of MOOCs – to broaden access to education.