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UMD, Vanderbilt Team Up for a New Wrinkle in MOOCs

September 9, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University will introduce a significant, new wrinkle in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) next year – a two-part, two-semester collaboration offered through Coursera. It begins with Maryland faculty and concludes with Vanderbilt's.

The project demonstrates a collaboration that would be unmanageable outside of a MOOC platform, the organizers say.

"We're offering students a one-two punch by pairing these courses," says UMD computer scientist Ben Bederson, who serves as special advisor on technology and educational transformation. "Students will get to create and examine, from end-to-end, an app that integrates mobile devices with cloud computing platforms. It promises to be useful tool, for example, in collecting international data."

The MOOC sequence begins at Maryland in the coming academic year with "Programming Handheld Systems with Android," taught by computer science professor Adam Porter.The MOOC sequence begins at Maryland in the coming academic year with "Programming Handheld Systems with Android," taught by computer science professor Adam Porter. Then, the sequence continues with Vanderbilt computer science professor Douglas Schmidt and electrical and computer engineering professor Jules White, who will teach "Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture." This will focus on connecting mobile applications to the computing cloud.
"Creating such an opportunity for Vanderbilt and University of Maryland students alone would be incredibly complex in a traditional environment. With the MOOC platform, not only is it possible, it will now be available to learners globally," says Schmidt. "This trans-institutional and interdisciplinary MOOC sequence will provide an exemplar of how intentionally coordinated MOOCs can create learning communities that cut across traditional institutional and disciplinary boundaries."

Porter adds, “Although Doug Schmidt and I have collaborated on research for over 25 years, collaborating on education was just too complicated. MOOCs have changed that.”

Maryland and Vanderbilt each joined Coursera last September. They are deepening their involvement in the rapidly developing domain.

"This kind of innovation and experimentation is absolutely vital for us to realize the full potential of MOOCs, online education and the blended classroom," University of Maryland President Wallace Loh explains. "By creating interdisciplinary teams and collaborations between institutions, we will create unique learning communities that could not easily be managed outside the MOOC world."

UMD MOOC Expansion
Maryland will nearly double its MOOCs next year – introducing four new ones on Coursera, and bringing back four of the five offered this past spring. In addition to Porter's MOOC on programming handheld devices, the new courses will be:

  • Understanding the Terrorist Threat, (Gary LaFree, UMD-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism);
  • Practicing Tolerance in a Religious Society, (Bernard Cooperman, Jewish studies); and
  • Making Better Group Decisions, (Eric Pacuit, philosophy).

The returning Maryland MOOCs include:

  • Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies (James Green, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute);

UMD MOOC Evaluation
University of Maryland educators have concluded that the first experiments with MOOCs this year are already having an impact on teaching on the campus.

"There are numerous conversations about pedagogy, and the use of technology to decrease the amount of time devoted to lectures in classes to make room for more discussion and active learning," says Ben Bederson, who is spearheading planning and evaluation of the new technological initiatives at Maryland. "Several instructors are repurposing their MOOC videos for their on-campus classes."

One of them is Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute professor James Green, who taught a popular entrepreneurship MOOC twice so far, reaching a total of 150,000 students.

"We are creating a repository of interchangeable content and resources that can be deployed for multiple audiences and multiple purposes," Green says. "Not everything is fully reusable, but the bulk of it is applicable to MOOCs, online for-credit courses, flipped classrooms on campus, and limited enrollment non-credit online courses. All the while we're accumulating the know-how for integrating this material in these various settings."

Green plans to use this experience to enhance for-credit online courses through a mini-lecture approach with online assessments; increase flipped classroom model for face-to-face courses; and create a recruitment opportunity to attract entrepreneurial students to UMD.

To view the University of Maryland's MOOC offerings, visit