Charles Darwin, Evolution and Tropical Australia MOOC Tour with Professor Martin Carroll

Hello I'm Martin Carroll the ProVice-Chancellor Academic here at Charles Darwin University.

We'reUniversity of about 23,000 students in the courses ranging from certificate one through to PhD.

We're based in Darwin which is the capital city of the Northern Territory or NT in Australia.

You could fit Texas California and New Mexico into the NT, and yet we have a population all just 250 thousand people.

So to reach people distributed in such a massive area we've had to be creative.

throughout the NT and also in placeslike Sydney and Melbourne.

But perhaps mostimportantly we've become an intensive user of online learning technologies.

We've been partnered with Blackboard for over 10 years and we nowhave a sophisticated and integrated a suiteof learning technologies centered around Blackboard Learn and theBlackboard Collaborate.

These technologies are used by ourstudents whether they're on campus or off-campus.

We smile a little but when we read the literature and themedia about MOOCs because it feels as if a number of on-campus universities have suddenly discovered thepossibilities that come with online learning.

But the idea that a MOOC is freely available and open does open up excitingpossibilities for new learning communities and we'rekeen to explore that.

For our first MOOC and with the consent of one of his great great-grandsons, we chose our namesake Charles Darwin; his revolutionary theory on the evolutionary biology andin particular how it relates to where we are here intropical Australia.

In designing the MOOC there were seven key things that we wanted to get right.

Number one: we wanted this to be a learning journey and not just storytelling.

There are plenty of documentaries and books aboutCharles Darwin and his theory.

We wanted this to be aboutstudying what Charles Darwin was all about.

Secondly we wanted it to be interactive.

We knowdeep learning happens when students get to engage and interact with the material and with eachother.

So we incorporated discussion boards and live webinars.

The use a Blackboard's Coursesites was agood tactical choice because not all MOOCplatforms enable that type of functionality.

Now given that synchronous humaninteraction is not always going to be possible, wealso decided to make some of the rich media content interactive.

We also decided that the content in our first MOOC would beentirely of own creation.

Now of course universitiesalways have and always will draw upon the intellectual property ofothers to put together a globally relevant course.

But for our first mode we wanted toshowcase our own research and our ability togenerate high-quality online resources.

Fifthly, we decided to bring the "wow" factor.

Not the expense of focusing on the learning takingplace, but let's face it the days are boringtalking head videos and PDF's on their own are over.

Sixthly we wanted to assess the student learning taking place.

So every module that we used concluded with a quiz and some assessment activities.

And lastly we wanted to see if free and open courses could giveprospective students a chance to experience what it would actually be like if they were studying with CharlesDarwin University.

Given that we are a Blackboard user,Blackboard Coursesites for our MOOC was not only a good tactical choice it was a good strategic choice.

So nowthat we've had our first MOOC experience as a university what have we learned?First of all we've learnt an awful lot about teamwork.

To make this make happen we drewtogether the academic staff who had the content an assessment expertise.

Webrought in educational designers and developers,technical experts who knew about how to create the digital learningresources and how to use the MOOC platform; marketing crew who helped make sure theworld knew that this MOOC was available.

What wehave learned about that type of team work we will takeforward not just in relation to other MOOCS, but more broadly in terms of how wework as a university.

We took the decision and that our MOOC wouldinclude live leaner support.

We have learned that thatis an entirely different proposition in terms of design, in terms ofdeployment, in terms of resourcing, than the typeof MOOC that is always available; its permanently online, you can come in and out anytime you likebut you won't necessarily have any live learner support.

We can see the pros and cons of both, butwe have certainly learned that they are two different things.

To produce a high-quality MOOC does require specific expertise.

Being a major online provider we doexpect our academic staff to know how to use Blackboard Learn, toknow how to use Collaborate, to know how to create things likevoice-over, PowerPoint files that can be uploaded.

But to create things like interactive 3d animations, to use GoogleMaps and interactive ways, this requires specialist skill and ouruniversity has now brought that in.

It's probably also true to say thatone of the reasons that developing this MOOC was attractiveto the academic staff and to the finance staff, is that thetime and investment that went into creating some of thesehigh quality Digital Learning Resources can also be reused in our creditbearing courses.

So people talk about the cost of MOOCs we;think our MOOC might have cost a hundred and fifty thousand dollars tomake, but the benefits can be embedded in our revenuegenerating courses as well as in our free MOOC.

Look, CDU is not going to make hundredsof MOOCs.

We're already an online University.

But where we think a MOOC will allow usto reach out to new groups of people and possibly stimulate a little bit ofinterest in them furthering their formaleducation then we'll certainly take a look at thoseoptions.

We also think that a MOOC is a fantastic way to pursuecollaborations with other providers; universities in other countries.

A MOOCafter all being free, being non credit bearing, is a comparatively low risk activity to be involved in, but potentially very high impact.

What agreat way to explore collaborative deliverypossibilities with other universities.

Enough for mefor now.

I hope you have a look at the MOOC itself.


Source: Youtube