University expands online course offerings

For the first time this fall, the University has added online courses for students to take during the academic year in a push to increase the learning opportunities available to students. In addition, this spring, Professor of English James Egan will be teaching the first non-writing-based online course to be offered during the regular school year. Egan’s course, ENGL 0511C: “Fantastic Places, Unhuman Humans,” will examine literature from authors like William Shakespeare and Mary Shelley with an objective of understanding how humans perceive themselves through their portrayal of monsters. Previously, online courses were only available during summer sessions. The addition of online courses for the academic year reflects positive feedback from faculty members and students regarding online courses and the University’s desire to experiment with online education, said Karen Sibley, vice president for strategic initiatives and dean of the School of Professional Studies. The University’s online course collection has been developing for the past few years because online education “is one of several innovative areas of higher education” that faculty members are exploring at other schools, said Dean of the College Maud Mandel. The University sees itself as being on the “cutting edge” of higher education in the country, she added. Slow beginnings Starting in 2013, the School of Professional Studies began working alongside faculty members to “design, produce and refine” online courses for undergraduate and graduate students, said Ren Whitaker, senior director of online learning and innovation. These faculty members initially expressed interest in teaching online courses with the desire of reaching students they normally would not have the opportunity to teach, she added. The University has also experimented with massive open online courses — known as MOOCs — through Coursera, which allows the general public to access course lectures and materials. Arnold Weinstein, professor of comparative literature, taught his course COLT 1420T: “The Fiction of Relationship” in 2014 through Coursera. Though the public benefited from the University’s “intellectual privilege” with its partnership with Coursera, the costs of creating and running MOOCs were “prohibitive” for the University to continue using the platform, he said. While the University is currently moving away from Coursera, last month, the Brown joined the edX consortium, a platform where faculty members can work with instructional designers to create online courses that can be shared with the world, Sibley said. But the University is not pushing a “significant agenda” with online courses. It is instead exploring its options regarding online education, Sibley added. Students online Online...

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