The University of Wollongong will today announce details of its first contribution to the world of massive open online courses (MOOCs).
MOOCs are free courses universities create and upload online as gifts to the world, but they generally do not offer any credit towards a degree or qualification.
In recent years, they have become increasingly interesting to universities internationally and in Australia for their potential as marketing tools, and their potential significance in the universities of the future.
UOW has partnered with MOOC provider Open2Study to offer two free courses – Understanding Common Diseases, by academics from the Graduate School of Medicine, and Contemporary Issues in Ocean Governance – Maritime Enforcement and Security.
The courses will start from November 18 and early next year respectively. They will run for four weeks via UOW’s new YouTube channel, youtube.com/openuow.
The initial MOOCs are intended as a try-before-you-buy option for potential students, including those considering returning to study or wanting to boost their professional skills.
Sarah Lambert, manager for open education, said UOW planned to offer longer, more robust courses with an assessment component for which the university would be paid in future.
The longer courses would be accredited through Open Education Resource university (OERu).
‘‘This is just the first chapter in a really interesting process of changing the way we do some of the things here,’’ said Ms Lambert of the courses launched today.
Ms Lambert said MOOCs were the beginning of ‘‘unbundling’’ content from the other components of university, such as study groups and assessment.
‘‘An undergraduate students is typically working 21 hours a week or more. Our postgraduate students are very frequently working full-time, so we just have to be smart about the balance of what we do on campus and off campus,’’ Ms Lambert said.
‘‘If you can’t come to campus and are happy to learn online, why would you want to pay top dollar for a bundled service you don’t use? Face-to-face time is really important, but we want it to be a choice.’’
Ms Lambert was adamant universities of the future would still require campuses, but said they would be used differently: ‘‘Students love to come to campus ...but the reality is increasingly that they can only come for small amounts of time and when they come here they want to do a group of really targeted activities.’’