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Stanford’s hybrid MOOC offers alternative

Graduate students work on same projects as 25,000 MOOC takers
University Business, January 2014

When Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, taught “A Crash Course on Creativity” last spring, the 38 students in her graduate class worked on the same projects as the 25,000 people around the world who took the MOOC version of the course.

The MOOC not only offered an alternative to Stanford students who were unable to take this oversubscribed class, but also included perspective from people across the globe.

“If I give an assignment in my class at Stanford, and there are 10 teams, we get to see 10 different ways of seeing how people solve problems,” says Seelig, a professor of management science and engineering. “If there are people around the world solving them, I can share that with my class, and we have a lot more information than just a class with 40 students.”

Integrating massive open online courses with brick-and-mortar classes is the latest twist on MOOCs. At the University of Pittsburgh, Gordon Mitchell, an associate professor of communication, offered a HOOC—a hybrid open online course—on the Greek rhetorician Isocrates this past fall.

Unlike other MOOCs that are being combined with on-campus classes, Mitchell’s HOOC allows the graduate students on campus and the online participants to interact. The online students can listen to an hour of each three-hour seminar and participate in the discussion by posting comments on Twitter. And each doctoral students enrolled in the campus class is required to prepare a lesson in the course and teach it to the online students.

“It’s a symbiotic evolution for two courses that are happening at the same time,” Mitchell says. “They’re working on a parallel, evolutionary path.”

To facilitate more hybrid courses blending MOOCs and on-campus classes, Blackboard recently launched xpLor (Cross Platform Learning Object Repository), which can provide a bridge between online and face-to-face courses.

Jarl Jonas, industry manager for MOOCs and CourseSites at Blackboard, says the purpose of xpLor is to open the conversation up beyond a campus classroom. “I can now interact with students within a massive open online course and engage with 1,000 more people or 10,000 more people, rather than just with my class of 20 or 30.”