Thursday, May 2, 2013

What will we be doing in the pathways MOOC?

It's interesting to me how MOOCs are affecting higher education.  I'm not interested in using them for traditional courses, but for professional development and training, I think it could be a sound option.  In a perfect world, I would travel to each school that has asked for training and interact with their faculty using lessons and problems.  We would address the questions specific to that college and help instructors feel confident and usually quite excited to teach this new type of developmental math course, a pathways math course.

Unfortunately, real life makes that hard.  I just trained a school last week and enjoyed it tremendously.  They were lively and engaged and it made for a great day.  When possible, that's my goal:  to have to face to face training.  And I do that often.  But when that's not possible, a MOOC can provide a large reach more efficiently.

Our goals for the MOOC are still the same as with the face to face workshops:  engagement.  We want instructors working, talking, thinking and above all, interacting with each other.  These are the same goals in our pathways classrooms.  When those events happen, learning happens and people leave feeling their time was well spent.  We want that to happen in our MOOC as well.

So, what exactly will we be doing?  If you will take the course, this is what you'll do:

First, you will learn about the history of pathways courses.  We don't want to assume everyone knows the difference between Quantway and MLCS, for example.  So we delve into where pathways courses have come from and the timeline of their development.

Then we talk about philosophy.  That is, the philosophy of these courses and your philosophy of teaching.  We want to challenge you to see how you think math should be taught and how that aligns with the approach of these courses.  Often instructors are really excited about teaching these courses, but get uncomfortable when they see a different topic order or they don't see their favorite algebraic method taught when they used to.  Understanding your beliefs and the approach of the course will help make for a smoother transition.

Next we work on what it looks like to solve real problems as opposed to the traditional "word problems" usually seen in textbooks.  We will work on the challenges these problems pose in the classroom and how to overcome them.  We will also work on the role of algebra in pathways course.  It's present but it's different too.

Then we'll move into group work and assessments.  And we'll close with implementation at your school.

Throughout the course, we will have activities to help you explore something, learn something, and put that learning into practice.  This is the same approach we use to teach a pathways lesson.  You will talk to other faculty about challenges, ideas, questions, etc.  We are not the sages on the stage.  We'll share our ideas and experiences but we will also really want to hear from you.  We are lucky to have some participants who have already taught the course.  They can share their experiences so that you'll hear more than just what happens in Heather's classroom and mine.

We will work on a larger project for most of the course that will really allow you to dive into a challenging aspect of the course:  open-ended projects.

By the end of course, you should feel confident and ready to pilot with comfort both in terms of how the classroom will work and also in terms of implementation at your school.  Because we will have a large number of students, we probably won't be able to answer every individual question.  We will do our best to do so, though.  And the peer interaction will also help.  We don't want anyone leaving feeling like their questions are unanswered.

This course should provide growth for the novice pathways instructor to more experienced instructors who have taught a pathways course.  If you just want to observe and learn about them and see what others are doing, that works too.  But the more involvement we have from you, the better for all involved.

Interested?  Go here to register.


  1. Kathleen,

    Can you give me a rough idea of the time commitment a teacher will need to make to get the most out of this MOOC? I would like to determine how to appropriately compensate some of my faculty for participating.

    Kathryn Van Wagoner

  2. I would say 3 to 5 hours a week minimum if they really want to get the most out of it. Instructors will be writing, evaluating, interacting, and potentially even teaching a trial lesson at their home campus.

  3. Thanks. How often do expect to run this course?

  4. We're not sure yet. We have to see how things go this first time. But if it goes well, and hopefully it will, we would like to do it on a regular basis. That would be maybe 2-3 times a year (spring, summer, fall).