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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M inches closer to open online courses

Texas A&M University has taken the next step toward offering Massive Open Online Courses to students and individuals around the world. The courses would be free to anyone with an Internet connection and could be offered as soon as September 2015.
If finalized, Texas A&M will offer MOOCs through edX, an online platform run by MIT and Harvard University that allows students to register for and virtually attend classes offered by universities around the world. A&M will be the third university in Texas to offer MOOCs through edX, joining the University of Texas at Austin and Rice University.
Walter Daugherity, senior lecturer in Texas A&M’s department of computer science and engineering and MOOC committee member, said the University is poised to begin the development of actual courses.
“The provost has just approved a recommendation from a selection committee that A&M join edX,” Daugherity said. “[There may be] a pilot over the next spring or summer and then have [the courses] ready for the general public by September 2015.”
Daugherity said MOOCs would serve to increase Texas A&M’s visibility and would allow the University to offer unique, quality courses to anyone in the world.
“If there’s a course that A&M offers online to anybody in the world that is a really good version of the course for that subject, then that will attract people’s attention,” Daugherity said. “One example: professor Marlan Scully is the world’s leading expert on quantum optics, so if A&M and professor Scully decided to put a MOOC course up on quantum optics, then that might be the only MOOC in the world on that subject or one of a very small number from a leading expert in the world.”
For all their promise, MOOCs do have several disadvantages. Low course completion and cost are often cited by critics of MOOCs, but Daugherity said recent technological advancements have made MOOC’s more attractive financially.
“20 years ago or even 10 years ago it would be difficult to afford the equipment and the internet bandwidth to support 10,000 simultaneous logins, as students who tried to register online 10 years ago can attest,” Daugherity said. “That’s now feasible [today] at an affordable price.”
University of Texas professor Margaret Myers teaches the MOOC “Linear Algebra – Foundations and Frontiers,” one of nine offered by UT this semester. She said the audience of her MOOC turned out to be much different from the anticipated audience. Most of the people involved already had undergraduate degrees, and 60 percent were over 45 years old, a far cry from the original target population of college and high school students.
Though many enrollees do not complete the MOOC, Myers said many people sign up just to see what the course is about.
“It’s like going to the library and picking up a book,” Myers said. “You don’t necessarily read it from the front cover to the back cover, you might just glance through it just to see what’s in it and not really have the intent of reading the entire book.”
Senior civil engineering major David Florence said a limiting factor of MOOCs could be their lack of human interaction.
“It sounds like a good idea overall but I don’t believe that provides enough human interaction,” Florence said. “I can see it applying to something like history or English or something that you’re expecting to be reading intensive, but if it were to be a technical course like mathematics or computer science, I don’t foresee it being a very effective program.”

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