KSU to offer first massive online course

By The Mercury

Kansas State University announced Thursday that it is joining the flurry of schools offering “Massive Open Online Courses” that are broadening access to higher education.

The MOOCs allow tens of thousands of students to take a class at the same time, but the rate of students dropping out of the generally free, digital courses hovers around 90 percent. Some experts say MOOCs can’t replace traditional classroom learning, especially for struggling students who need more face-to-face interaction and mentoring to succeed.

The Kansas State Global Campus’ first MOOC, “Health and Wellness 101: Everyday Small Changes,” will cover a wide range of topics, including meal planning, healthy cooking, body image, physical activity, substance abuse and stress management.

Linda Yarrow, an assistant professor of human nutrition who led the development team for the course and will teach its first cycle this fall, said that the class format encourages instructors to be creative and innovative. The free, non-credit course will feature videos and interactive games. Students will be able to communicate through message boards and participate in weekly real-time chats with a registered dietitian about how they can apply what they are learning to their own lives.

“MOOCs can reach people anywhere around the world in an efficient and asynchronous manner, making them ideal for outreach education in ways the traditional classroom can’t achieve,” said Yarrow in a written statement.

Yarrow said about 600 people, many of them international students, had signed up so far. She said she heard predictions that the course enrollment would eventually reach 2,000 students.

The first cycle of the course will be taught Oct. 6 to Nov. 15, with content remaining open to students until Dec. 12.

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