Interns from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA

Interns from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA from r-l: Derek Feehrer, Jamie Freud, Anqi Lu, Nde Nkimbeng

Brief: Introduced the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at NUST. A first for Namibia!

Kindly introduce your team members from WPI to us. Where you are from, what you are studying and how you ended up at NUST. We are a group of students from WPI interning at TLU to help promoting the launch of MOOCs that the Teaching and Learning Unit (TLU) developed. Derek and Nde are from Massachusetts, Jame is from New Hampshire, and Anqi is from China. All of us are third year students. Derek and Anqi study Computer Science, Nde Mechanical Engineering, and Jamie Chemical Engineering. All the students at WPI are required to complete an Interactive Qualifying Project(IQP) before graduation. WPI partners with companies, organization, and institutions around the world to provide projects that benefit the local communities. We chose this MOOC project at Windhoek project center.

What are Massive Open Online Courses and where the idea first started? Why did you feel to introduce it at NUST? Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. In 2008, University of Manitoba professors Stephen Downes and George Siemens pioneered a new model for online learning. Their course, titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge,” expanded the reach of an existing course at the university by allowing approximately 2,200 students to participate via the Internet. Participants in the course used blogs to share information and learn from one another.

NUST first deployed its eLearning system in 2013 and is seeking to expand its distance learning capabilities. The Teaching and Learning Unit (TLU) is the center at NUST responsible for enhancing “the teaching and learning competencies of faculty and students through the use of innovative methodologies and technologies”. The TLU developed an online learning platform to host short MOOCs to extend students’ knowledge outside of the classroom. These MOOCs focus on skills that contribute to student success at NUST and after graduation. The TLU recognizes a lack of support for students on the NUST eLearning system and a lack of time management skills among students. The TLU created two MOOCs, “Technology to Foster Effective Learning” and “Time Management”, to address these two issues respectively. We serve as the ambassadors of the TLU in introducing these MOOCs to help NUST students.

How are MOOCs different from the already existing eLearning platform and what value did it add to the studies of the students? Please share more with us more about the two courses you introduced at NUST and the activation you had at the yellow benches. The existing eLearning platform complements the current classroom in that students can engage in the course even after class such as view marks and upload assignments. The current MOOCs don’t offer credit for courses and do not involve any form of deadlines, assignments or tests. They serve as reference for students to improve skills. They are short, around five hours each in total and students can take it anytime they would like.

“Technology to Foster Effective Learning” trains students on how to effectively use the MyNUST eLearning platform. In the past, students sought support from TLU staff when facing difficulties with eLearning. The TLU designed the course to support students by addressing the majority of issues that students face on a day-to-day basis. This MOOC covers the following topics:

  • ● Resetting user password and email address
  • ● Updating the eLearning profile
  • ● Submitting assignments for courses
  • ● How to collaborate with other students to contribute content to a Wiki
  • ● How to build a MyNUST portfolio to reflect on the skills students have learned at NUST and showcase them.

“Time Management” is the first soft skill MOOC at NUST and teaches students how to effectively manage their time. This MOOC covers the following topics:

  • ● Goal setting
  • ● Concentration
  • ● Organization
  • ● Task prioritization
  • ● Effect of state of mind on productivity
  • ● Schedule design

During activation we held on April 19th, we were able to interact with students face-to-face and explain in details what a MOOC is and what the two MOOCs are about. We also gathered ideas from students about the future MOOCs. Some of the ideas include: app development, ethical hacking, and e-commerce.

What are your plans in making sure that this initiative is a success? Do you have any plans to collaborate further once you are back in your country? We’ve developed a continuous promotional strategy consisting of various promotion methods. These methods include posters, videos, NUST FM radio advertisements, lecture bombs, activation, and email. Posters were posted on multiple Facebook pages and group as well as printed and hung around the campus. The videos were posted on Facebook pages as well. No, but the team have documented the details of our promotional strategy and future interns at TLU will carry on the work. We will also remain in contact with NUST staff that we’ve interacted with and keep the connection.

What did you think of NUST as a whole and do you have any suggestions, recommendations to leave us with? We really enjoyed our time at NUST. All the people we’ve interacted with are very friendly and welcoming. We’d like to thank all the NUST staff and student volunteers who helped with our project. We were amazed about how lively the campus is especially when an activation take place. The school pushes hard to continuously improve its education quality for the students and is innovative in the methods of doing so. We also recommend the continuous use of MOOCs -- creating more short MOOCs that students are interested in to further extend the share of knowledge and enhance students’ experience.

Success quote! “Learning expands great souls.”