Online, free and here to stay

Laura Huenneke

By Laura Huenneke, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

As NAU wrestles with technological transformations ranging from the use of BbLearn to the President’s Technology Innovation fund to Personalized Learning, the national conversation about innovation in higher education is racing ahead.

More institutions are jumping on the bandwagon of providing courses to Udacity, Coursera and the like. Access to these massive open online courses—or MOOCs—free of charge, increases daily, it seems, along with discussions about them. Curious? Visit this easy portal that’s definitely worth checking out. Anyone with an Internet connection can find an intriguing offering, from computer science to cosmology, software design to sociology.

In recent days a new market has been established for providing credit or credentials to students completing MOOCs. And for the latest proof that the phenomenon is here to stay: the start of discussions about whether, and how, to assess quality through an accreditation system similar to institutional accreditation.

I’ve heard from one of our faculty members, who has tremendous experience teaching online, about having an interest in creating a MOOC. Undoubtedly, others at NAU with strong online capabilities share this interest.

My own prejudice springs up here. Why should we give such expertise away for free? But I have to admit we can’t hide from this brave (if unsettling) new world. President Haeger’s campus forum on Nov. 26 will focus on how these technological developments are reshaping the higher education landscape and how we might best harness them to serve our students. Plan on participating!