WHS Joins the MOOC Revolution

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online courses open to anyone with internet access. The concept was hatched in the fall of 2011 at Stanford University. Enrollment quickly grew, spawning a company called Udacity and a rival partnership at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford and the University of Michigan, called Coursera.

MIT created a non-profit option called MITx, launching its first MOOC in March 2012. Harvard joined MITx and edX was born. The non-profit was soon joined by the University of California, Berkeley, University of Texas, Wellesley College and Georgetown University.

In 2012, the University of Miami launched the first high school MOOC as part of its online high school Global Academy. edX is now partnering with Weston High School to develop its own high school courses.

Anant Agarwal, a WHS parent and the CEO of edX, spoke to Weston faculty at their January professional development session about the potential of open coursework. Out of this meeting the new partnership was formed with the goal of launching two “on-ramp” courses to prepare students for the rigorous academic curricula of Advanced Placement Biology and AB or BC Calculus.

Biology teacher Mary Liu and Math teacher John Monz are quarterbacking the project’s curricular content. Film teacher Ted Garland will lead the production process. Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Maloney, Director of Technology and Libraries Dr Lee McCanne, Middle School Technology teacher Jonathan Dietz, WHS Principal Anthony Parker, and retired Science Department Head Larry Murphy will also participate in edX training and consultation in order to understand the process, challenges and opportunities.

The goal is to produce one to two week courses comprising a number of 3-5 minute “lessons” that will help students prepare for enrollment in AP Biology and Calculus. An anonymous donor has provided the funding for the project leaders’ time, but all faculty in the respective departments will be granted time to provide input into designing each lesson, lecture or demonstration. Students will provide important feedback and may participate in the production of each segment.

Principal Anthony Parker is very excited about being part of this initiative. “We are going to be pioneers in this field and our faculty members are energized at the prospect of developing more courses in their departments. We have a ton to learn about what makes an effective lesson as well as how to produce quality experiences. Anything that can provide our students with new opportunities to learn is worth pursuing.”

The team hopes to complete its pilot courses by August 1. Until then, the WHS team will be working with edX to learn the nuts and bolts of creating a revolutionary, engaging, and productive teaching tool. We hope to keep the WHS community abreast of the progress over the next several months. Stay tuned!