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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Creating MOOCs for Students in Developing Countries | EDUCAUSE Review

"After an approach designed to attract students in developing countries missed its goals, St. George's University in Grenada created a highly successful massive open online course (MOOC). Real-time interactions and solid student support were key to the turnaround." argues Satesh Bidaisee, associate professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and assistant dean for Graduate Studies at Saint George's University.

Explaining a concept through a video lecture.

Nothing in the name massive open online course (or "MOOC") denotes intimacy, connection, or community — particularly when the target student population is spread throughout the world. But in my experience, achieving all of those qualities is not only possible, but is, in fact, the point. Learning happens most easily when students feel connected to the content, the instructor, and each other. The key, then, is not simply to slap a course online and set up registration and a forum or two, but rather to carefully construct a course from the platform up with those goals and your prospective students in mind. The reward for doing so? A course experience that is as rewarding for instructors as for the students they teach.

At St. George's University in Grenada, West Indies, Chancellor Charles Modica had a vision of providing SGU education opportunities to students from around the world who face barriers to attending onsite campuses. At SGU having internationally recognized programs in medicine, veterinary medicine and public health as well as a global community of faculty, students and alumni, the approach was to deliver a course on integrating the various aspects of health and medicine into One Health One Medicine with a global perspective. 

Course 1: A Standard Approach … Falls Short 
Although we didn't realize it going in, our first course would prove to be crucial to our success, even as it met three times the average completion rates for MOOCs, which was still less than  our goals and expectations.

Key Course Development Choices 
We launched our first course, "One Health One Medicine," in 2013. When deciding on the topic, we chose the linkages between Human and Veterinary Medicine because it represented the strength of education offered at SGU as well as the nature of global health burdens from emerging infectious diseases.

We prepared the course based on our own curriculum and education standards from an academic context. We capped enrollment at 1,000 and had a full course, primarily of students from North America and Europe, with limited participation from developing countries. This first course served as both an introduction to the One Health One Medicine concept for the students and my own entry and introduction to developing and delivering MOOCs.

For the course development, we used an existing platform, which had specific requirements and resulted in a highly structured course. 

Our course had an 11 percent completion rate — almost double that of the average MOOC. However, we considered the rate low and the course to be somewhat of a failure. Further, the constraints of the predesigned platform meant that the course and its delivery were within the limits of the tools provided. Finally, the marketing and recruitment for the course was also restricted to the existing platform selected.
The course did succeed, however, in helping us realize what we needed to do moving forward:
  • Build our own platform to escape the confines of traditional assumptions about online education
  • Change our content focus to global health issues, to ensure its direct relevance to our target audience in developing countries
  • Create a course built on interaction and engagement, providing our students with as close a replica as possible to the on-site classroom experience

Source: EDUCAUSE Review