Virtual School Meanderings

July 10, 2014

EDTECH537 – Guest Blogger: Roles For MOOCs In Online And Blended Learning

As I mentioned in the EDTECH537 – Week 5 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, I wanted to post a sample of a guest blog entry.

This guest post is contributed by Cathy Cavanaugh, PhD, who is the Director of Teaching and Learning, Worldwide Education, Microsoft Corporation.  She can be reached at  As is the tradition at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry today.

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were developed in the mid-2000s to open access to US higher education to the global audience, especially learners who were not enrolled in a degree program, by offering free course materials and experiences without credit or entry requirements (Liyanagunawardena,  Adams, & Williams, 2013). Hundreds of MOOCs for millions of learners have been offered under a range of models around the world, as shown in the table below. See MOOC List for examples,

Table. MOOC delivery models

Provider Learners Funding
Public college or universityPrivate or profit college or university

Professional association

K-12 education authority

For-profit education provider

Technology corporation

Non-profit organization

PublicStudents enrolled at sponsor institution

Target audience, such as a profession or interest group

By providerBy sponsor or advertisers

By students seeking a credential (certificate, badge)

By students seeking credit

Likewise, the learner experiences vary in MOOCs.

  • Course lengths range from a few weeks to a year, or self-paced
  • Student engagement may center on receptive activity such as using video lectures and other media, and reading ebooks; moderate episodic productive engagements such as brief computer-scored knowledge assessments or lower-order responses in forums; or intensive productive interactions such as sustained discussions, projects, and media creation
  • Feedback to learners may be automated, peer-to-peer, or from instructors; often differential feedback depends on whether students pay fees or take the course for credit
  • Pedagogical approaches include cMOOC, Downes’ learner-centered Connectivist type driven by human networks (Pence, 2013); xMOOC, a instructor/content-centered commercial and automated type driven by data (Pence, 2013); MOORC, Cavanaugh’s discovery-centered open research community driven by knowledge generation

Because the purposes of MOOCs vary and learners self-identify, they are designed to prioritize access rather than success. Therefore completion rates have been quite low. Critics see this situation as a disadvantage and focus on the cost/completer as a reason to discourage providers and learners from participating (Morris, 2013). Proponents see the large discrepancy between starters and finishers as evidence that the mission has been accomplished because a great many participants have experienced at least part of a course that otherwise would not be available to them, and most participants complete some learning (Morris, 2013). In a MOOC, the learners decide what and how much to learn. Their goals are individual and often do not have complete correspondence with course objectives.

Therefore, MOOCs are currently suited to some learning goals, as shown in the table below.

MOOCs are well suited for MOOCs are less suited for
Learners unable to access other education programsInformal learning by individuals seeking new skills or community networks

Learners using modules for specific learning that is more structured than using text or other media

Students assessing readiness, remediation, or a refresher for a credit course

Instructors expanding their teaching repertoire

Independent exploration of a domain

Institutional marketing or orientation

Public outreach by organizations

Experimenting with content and design due to the large amount of data generated

Learners in need of structure and feedbackLearning in ill-defined or complex performance-based domains

Developing high levels of expertise requiring coaching or mentoring

The full range of experiences that comprise most degree programs

Existing communities with specific product goals



For online and blended professional learning, a MOOC is a feasible and valuable model to consider for certain informal knowledge bases when openness and inclusivity are priorities, but not when acquiring specific objectives by specific audiences are priorities. A MOOC as a long-term goal would broaden the professional community.

For online and blended student learning, a MOOC is a scalable way to personalize learning for students who seek or need specialized knowledge, accelerated learning, or connections with specific communities of scholars.

Learning Theory applied to MOOCs

  Learning Theory Research on Practice
M=massive Social Learning: observational learning (Bandura) Class sizes optimal at under 20: accommodated using fluid and focused discussion and project groups (Monks & Schmidt)
O=open Andragogy: choice and differentiation to account for varying experience and goals (Knowles)Expertise: time, practice, and feedback are needed (Ericsson, Krampe & Tesch-Romer) Personalized learning and Flexible pathways: afford individualized mastery learning (Gates Foundation; iNACOL)Expanded learning time: efficient online (Liu & Cavanaugh)

Control and Connection: contribute to online learning (Repetto, Cavanaugh, Wayer & Liu)

O=online Connectivism: (Seimens) Effective when well-designed and facilitated: meta-analyses (Cavanaugh)
C=course Transactional distance: minimized with more interaction, structure and autonomy (Moore)Motivation: enhanced through feedback (Keller) Attention and Relevance are supported by course designs; Confidence and Satisfaction are supported by experienced instructors. (Carpenter & Cavanaugh)


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Carpenter, J. & Cavanaugh, C. (2012). Increasing Student Motivation through Mentoring Practices. In L. Archambault & K. Kennedy (Eds.), Lessons Learned in Teacher Mentoring: Supporting Educators in K-12 Online Learning Environments. Vienna, VA: iNACOL.

Cavanaugh, C. (2009). Distance education in support of extended learning time in K-12 schools. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Downes, S. (2006). Learning networks and connective knowledge. Accessed at

Downes, S. (2007). What connectivism is [Web log post]. Accessed at

Downes, S. (2009, December 4). Re: The reciprocity economy [Web log post comment]. Accessed at

Ericsson K, Krampe R, Tesch-Romer, C: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psychological Review 1993, 100:3, 363-406.

Keller, J. (1983). Motivational design of instruction. In C. Riegeluth (ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Liu, F. & Cavanaugh, C. (2011). Online Core Course Success Factors in Virtual School: Factors influencing student academic achievement. International Journal of E-Learning 10(4)43-65.

Liyanagunawardena, T; Adams, A; & Williams, S. (2013). MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, [S.l.], v. 14, n. 3, p. 202-227. SSN 1492-3831. Available at

Monks, J., & Schmidt, R. M. (2011). The Impact of Class Size on Outcomes in Higher Education. The BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy11(1).

Moore, M.G. (2007). The Theory of Transactional Distance. In M.G.Moore (Ed.) (2007) The Handbook of Distance Education. Second Edition. Mahwah, N.J. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 89–108.

Morris, L. V. (August 08, 2013). MOOCs, Emerging Technologies, and Quality. Innovative Higher Education, 38, 4, 251-252.

Pence, H. E. (2012). When Will College Truly Leave the Building: If MOOCs are the Answer, What Is the Question?. Journal Of Educational Technology Systems41(1), 25-33.

Repetto, J., Cavanaugh, C., Wayer, N., & Liu, F. (2010). Virtual High Schools: Improving Outcomes for Students with Disabilities. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(2), 91-104.

Siemens, G. (2003). Learning ecology, communities, and networks: Extending the classroom. elearnspace. Available at

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Available at

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing knowledge. Available at

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Available at

This guest post is contributed by Cathy Cavanaugh, PhD, who is the Director of Teaching and Learning, Worldwide Education, Microsoft Corporation.  She can be reached at

July 4, 2014

K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century: Free MOOC/Competition on Mobile Apps and Health for High School Students

From Wednesday’s inbox…

Hi Former K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century MOOC participants.  I’m sorry to bother you, but I wanted to update you on another free opportunity.  Kent State University is offering a free MOOC (massive open online course) on Mobile Technologies for Health for students in grades 9-12.  The course, which runs from July 7-July 27, 2014, provides an opportunity for high school students to learn about public health.  Students who participate in the course will also learn about mobile technologies and their use in health and health education.  Participants in the MOOC will have the opportunity to design an idea for a health game/app.  Cash awards will be given to the top three teams (as judged by a panel of experts).  Please see the details below, visit the Mobile Technologies for Public Health site, or contact Diana Kingsbury ( or Rick Ferdig ( for details.  National and international participation is welcomed, but students must be attending a secondary school to participate in the competition within the MOOC.  Please share this with students considering health as a college career choice!

Thanks for your time!  Best, Rick

About the Course

Now, more than ever, we rely on mobile technology to connect with others, to find information, and to help us navigate the world around us. With this increase in technology in our daily lives, there is an opportunity to maximize its use in addressing some of our leading social challenges. This summer, the Kent State University (KSU) College of Public Health, in collaboration with the KSU College of Education, Health, and Human Services, is sponsoring an online learning experience that will introduce high school students (grades 9-12) to the use of mobile technologies to solve public health problems and challenges.

Students will have the opportunity to learn the basics of game and app development as they engage with the five core areas of public health (Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Health Policy, Environmental Health, and Social & Behavioral Health). Students will compete in teams of 3 to 5 to develop a public health game or app that relates to a public health problem of their choice. Cash prizes will be awarded to the team with the best concept public health game or app (one $500 and two $250 awards).

The course will run from July 7, 2014 – July 27, 2014. All content will be available online and participants will be asked to submit their work through the course’s online platform. Orientation materials to the course, accessing the site, and program guidelines will also be made available virtually.

Find some friends, form a team, and sign up today!

Intended Audience – High school students in grades 9 – 12 are encouraged to form a team and enroll.

Course Requirements

To participate, students will complete weekly online modules that will provide them with information about the field of public health, the basics of mobile app and game development, and some of the leading public health problems nationwide and globally. Students will be asked to select a public health issue of their choice and design their mobile technology to address the problem. In order to participate, students must have computer and Internet access. To be eligible to compete for the cash awards, students must complete each module and must be a member of a 3-5 person team.

Learning Objectives – By participating in this program, you will:

    •         Understand the five core areas within the field of public health:
    •         Get the basics of how mobile apps and games are designed
    •         Learn how mobile technologies can address public health issues
    •         Compete against other teams nationwide for cash awards
    •         Have fun!

To enroll, please visit Mobile Technologies for Public Health.

June 23, 2014

MOOC: Teachers Teaching Online

This came across my electronic desk last week from a variety of sources…

MOOC: Teachers Teaching Online

Teachers Teaching Online will show you how to succeed as an online teacher. Whether you are looking to get started or wish to sharpen your skills, TTO is for you!

We began on June 15 but you can join us anytime and work at your own pace.

Click here to see the class schedule.

In this course, Jason R. Levine introduces you to a variety of online teaching experts, all of whom possess exceptional talent for engaging learners. Each live session consists of a different expert demonstrating their skills and sharing knowledge of their experience.

Course Highlights

  • Learn from online teaching experts in action
  • Discover how to engage students in the virtual classroom
  • Explore the best in online learning tools
  • Learn how to create, market, and manage successful courses
  • Network with educators from all over the world

I don’t really recognize any of the presenters, at least not in their relation to K-12 online learning, but I did want to pass it on.

May 9, 2014

HOC-Lab 2014 – Massive Open Online Courses: What K-12 Educators Need to Know

So this afternoon I am delivering a convocation address as a part of the Poliresearch Seminar: MOOCs for the Italian School, PoliCultura and EXPO Milan 2015 for the HOC-LAB, Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy.  My slides are below.

February 5, 2014

Celebrating Digital Learning Day 2014: Two New MOOC-Ed Courses

More from the neo-liberals…

Marking the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Digital Learning Day, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation is pleased to announce that registration is officially open on two new Massive Open Online Courses for Educators (MOOC-Eds) covering the integration of digital learning in schools and interpreting and implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.

Coaching Digital Learning | Cultivating a Culture of Change was developed by the Digital Learning Collaborative team at the Friday Institute, led by Verna Lalbeharie, Senior Program Director. Beginning March 10, this course is designed for educators and professionals who guide the integration of digital learning to support and enhance student learning (i.e. instructional technology coaches/facilitators, media specialists, mentor teachers). It will allow participants to learn what it takes to coach educators to integrate technology effectively; explore relevant frameworks, strategies, tools, and resources; experience opportunities for personalized application of new learning and job-embedded practices; and develop and share an Instructional Technology Coaching Action Plan to support their school/district’s digital learning culture.

For more information about this course or to register, please visit


Division and Multiplication of Whole Numbers: Bridging to Fraction Understanding is the second in the “Mathematics Learning Trajectories for the Common Core” MOOC-Ed series. This professional development series focuses on learning trajectories as a framework for interpreting and implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M). Funded by a grant from the Hewlett Foundation to provide free professional development to educators around the new CCSS, this is the first of four courses that will be released throughout the year.

Division and Multiplication was developed by the GISMO Research Group at the Friday Institute, led by Dr. Jere Confrey and Dr. Alan Maloney. Beginning March 17, the course will introduce a learning trajectory approach to students’ multiplicative reasoning, exploring a stronger conceptual basis for multiplicative reasoning, so that multiplication and division of fractions is an extension of multiplication and division of whole numbers. It is recommended for elementary and middle grades mathematics educators.

For more information about this course or to register, please visit

Registration will remain open until the end of Unit 2 for the Planning for the Digital Learning Transition (DLT) in K-12 Schools MOOC-Ed. In collaboration with the Alliance for Excellent Education, the DLT course will help participants understand the potential of digital learning in K-12 schools; assess progress and set future goals for their school or district; and plan to achieve those goals. The course is intended for school and district leaders, as well as any others involved in planning and implementing K-12 digital learning initiatives.

For more information about this course or to register, please visit

To learn more about MOOC-Eds, please visit

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