MOOC Experiments with Teaching Strategies

MOOC Experiments with Teaching Strategies

Having videos available so that she could learn at her own pace — that’s what Theresa Sorrentino enjoyed most about her recent online class experience.

Having videos available so that she could learn at her own pace — that’s what Theresa Sorrentino enjoyed most about her recent online class experience.

“The video lectures helped me to better understand the course material because I  could watch and pause each one whenever I needed to,” added Sorrentino, a third-year Biomedical Engineering student.

Sorrentino was one of 11 Georgia Tech students who made up an on-campus contingent of this summer’s Introductory Physics I massive open online course (MOOC). (There were a total of 17,000 students around the world enrolled in the course.) The on-campus students actually took the course through Tech and earned credit.

“This flipped classroom model allowed the Tech students to watch lectures and complete homework assignments online, which freed up class time to work on problems and do other activities together,” said Mike Schatz, the physics professor who led the MOOC.

For example, as part of the course, students were asked to complete five video labs where they recorded a moving object, analyzed it using software, and created a five-minute lab report to share with the class.

When on campus, students were able to do a dry run of their lab reports during the face-to-face time with Schatz, allowing for them to get feedback before uploading their final videos to YouTube.

“This exercise was valuable, because we were able to catch some wrong turns and help students improve along the way,” Schatz said.    

Sorrentino is quick to share that being part of the small cohort of on-campus students was a plus.

“There was good camaraderie among us,” she said. “Also, there was greater accountability. If you didn’t get your work done, it was easily noticed, which was a good incentive to keep up with the class.”   

Aside from the flipped model and the video labs, this course experimented with video white board illustrations as another way to teach the material. The illustrations cover everything from the differences between length and time measurements to friction.

“I thought they were great,” Sorrentino said. “I don’t know if it was because they were a novelty or if I am just a visual learner, but the video illustrations made it easier to understand the information being taught.”

The five- to 15-minute videos were primarily created by several undergraduate students, which allowed the students to become engaged in the teaching process, Schatz said.

From writing the script and creating the storyboard to editing the footage, each video took about eight to 10 hours to complete. The team is still producing videos, with the goal being to have a library of about 100.   

The MOOC will be offered again beginning Aug. 19, and will run for 16 weeks. Schatz’s approach to teaching the course will be similar but with a few changes.

One change will include more frequent testing. This summer, peer-evaluated lab reports, homework, and a final exam contributed to the students’ final grades. In the fall, there will be more frequent testing (weekly quizzes and a midterm) and less weight placed on the lab reports.

“Testing will be spread out, so students will know where they stand in the course, and we will be able to see if they’re grasping the material,” Schatz said.

Also, the number of on-campus students taking the course will increase to six sections of 30.
“We want to find out what it takes to successfully scale up the course to handle all the Tech students who may want to take the course,” Schatz said.

For more information, email Schatz.

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