The conference is funded by a $97,200 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to UT Arlington and will be titled "MOOCs and Emerging Educational Models: Policy, Practice and Learning." It is a collaborative event with the MOOC Research Initiative, a project at Canada's University of Athabasca that also was funded by the Gates Foundation. The MOOC Research Initiative recently awarded grants of $10,000 to $25,000 for the worldwide study of MOOCs as a learning tool.
"UT Arlington's national reputation and leadership in online education continues to expand in exciting and innovative ways and we are committed to fostering research-based approaches," said Samuel H. "Pete" Smith, vice provost for digital teaching and learning at the University. "With thousands of online students in Texas and around the globe, it is critical that our faculty and staff be engaged in these worldwide discussions and research efforts."
Over the past year, MOOCs have been making headlines – drawing kudos from the public for increasing accessibility to higher education coursework as well as some concerns from university administrators and faculty because of the lack outcome measurements involved. According to a recent Time.com story, Coursera, a MOOC startup launched by Stanford faculty, reported about 4.4 million students had signed up for courses over the year-and-a-half. The magazine added that edX, a MIT-Harvard MOOC collaboration, also reported more than a million students.
George Siemens, an organizer of the Research Initiative and associate director of the Athabasca's Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute, has said the emergence of MOOCs in higher education "requires a concerted and urgent research agenda."
"The MOOC Research Initiative will fill this research gap by evaluating MOOCs and how they impact teaching, learning, and education in general," he said on the initiative website. Research topics of the Research Initiative include: MOOC Learner Motivation and Course Completion Rates; Mapping the Dynamics of Peer-to-Peer Interaction in MOOCs; Professional Learning through MOOCs; and numerous others. Grantees will present some of their findings at the December event.
Besides Siemens, other confirmed keynote speakers at the conference include:
- Jim Groom, director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies and adjunct professor at University of Mary Washington.
- Candace Thille, assistant professor and senior research fellow at Stanford University and founder of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University.
- Jeff Selingo, editor at large for The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of the book "College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students."
Provided by University of Texas at Arlington
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