Open, Online, and On-Demand: Professor Emma Jakoi on Teaching One of Duke’s First Self-Paced MOOCs
Duke University School of Medicine professors Emma Jakoi and Jennifer Carbrey were two of the first faculty at the university to create a massive open online course, launching “Introductory Human Physiology” on Coursera in February 2013. After teaching four sessions of the course, Jakoi and Carbrey are again pioneering, this time by making their course […]
Duke University School of Medicine professors Emma Jakoi and Jennifer Carbrey were two of the first faculty at the university to create a massive open online course, launching “Introductory Human Physiology” on Coursera in February 2013. After teaching four sessions of the course, Jakoi and Carbrey are again pioneering, this time by making their course one of the first to be offered in a new self-paced, on-demand format.
Here, Professor Jakoi discusses why, and how, they decided to make “Introductory Human Physiology” an on-demand course.
What is the advantage of moving this course to the new on-demand format?
“Introductory Human Physiology” differs from many of the Coursera MOOCs not only in its length, 10-weeks, but also in its enrollment. Typically this course attracts students with some college background and often with professional degrees in the health sciences (nursing, medicine, physical therapy) or allied fields (biomedical engineering, nutrition, pharmacy). In each of our four sessions, the starting enrollment of active students was between 30,000 to 35,000. This number increased over the 10-weeks such that at the end of the course there were approximately 40,000 to 48,000 students. The problem that we encountered was that students who either joined late in the course or were delayed during its progression were not able to finish the course materials. The “on demand” course removes this time restriction.
An additional issue is that the Introductory Human Physiology MOOC provides a foundational knowledge of the field and its terms. Many students enroll in this course simply due to curiosity of how the body works, but others are interested in using the course material either to prepare for entrance into or to advance within their specific program/profession. These individuals include nurses, medical doctors, physical therapists, biomedical engineers, medical illustrators, premed and medical students, as well as nutritionists. Others such as pharmacists and engineers use the course for review of physiology in areas outside of their field of expertise. The “on-demand” format enables delivery of the course content in a manner better suited to the varied pace and schedule of these individuals.
Did preparing the course for the new format require you to rethink or rework any aspects of the course?
Most of the Introductory Human Physiology MOOC could be refitted to accommodate the new on-demand format without generating new videos or other course materials. The two specific needs that arose were addressed as follows:
A. Physiology is best learned by application. The learning resources for the Introductory Human Physiology MOOC integrate lecture videos with lecture notes and ungraded problem sets for application of the learned concepts. It is our experience that these 3 resources facilitate retention of the material and enable the students to select the learning resource best fitted to their learning style. However, the “on-demand” format is designed for use of videos with embedded review questions only. Coursera adjusted their “on demand” format to accommodate our needs for the added notes and ungraded problem sets.
B. We use three exams as closed book exercises to provide for a formal feedback of accomplishment. These exams are timed and each exam can be retaken once. The second iteration of each exam draws from an exam bank, thereby providing a novel experience with each try. These exams are an important feature in that the students can gauge their learning and gain additional practice with the exam material. In contrast, in the “on demand” format, all exams can be accessed at all times and are open-ended exercises. Moreover the same exam is delivered in successive tries; the exam bank is removed. These changes to the exams reduce the rigor of the formal assessment and the feedback of accomplishment. We are interested in modifying this feature in the new “on demand” course so that the graded exams are timed, repeat tries are delayed by 8 hours, and an exam bank is reinstated to provide a more rigorous use of this resource.