Iambics on the Internet
PRINCESS ANNE, MD - (Oct. 17, 2013) - The faculty in UMES’ Department of English and Modern Languages is watching this semester with curiosity how colleague Amy Hagenrater-Gooding is using a 21st century approach to deliver a course that includes the works of 19th century poets.
A $10,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is enabling Hagenrater-Gooding to experiment with the latest trend in higher education – Massive Open Online Courses. She used the money to pay for specialized training this past summer and to underwrite the cost of a videographer for data collection and a student tutor.
In her grant application, Hagenrater-Gooding wrote her goal was “to study how students respond and learn with the integration of MOOCs in (a humanities) classroom.”
“I wanted to give students a chance to see how academic discourse is modeled,” Hagenrater-Gooding said. “Instead of the lecture and the ‘I know, you don’t’ model, I wanted them to take responsibility for their learning. They need to do the work. We need to do the work together.”
So far, the 11 juniors and seniors in her “Studies in Poetry” class seem energized as well as engaged by their roles as pioneering participants.
“It really stretches you – the way you think,” senior Michael J. Taylor said.
“It requires individual motivation,” said Taylor, an honors student majoring in sociology. “You definitely have to be interested in the topic. An open mind is necessary. Even if you have an understanding of a poem, you still may miss key concepts.”
MOOCs have emerged as a much-discussed and sometimes controversial topic in higher education circles because tens of thousands of people can potentially tap into an online course – hence the description “massive.” Some are pursuing degrees, while others are auditing them.
Critics say MOOCs devalue the experience of up-close interaction with professors, a model that has worked for centuries. Advocates say MOOCs utilize the Internet as an effective tool that breaks down barriers by delivering knowledge to a broad audience.
Either way, UMES has dipped its institutional toe in the MOOC waters with Hagenrater-Gooding’s experimental class as well as a genetics class taught by Dr. Joseph Pitula.
Hagenrater-Gooding’s poetry students meet for 50 minutes thrice weekly in a Henson Center classroom. They also participate “in the collaborative dynamic” of a “Modern and Contemporary Poetry” class taught by Al Filreis, the Kelly Family Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
| Among the questions Hagenrater-Gooding is hoping to answer at the end of the semester:
- Does the use of the MOOC in the traditional classroom help model academic discourse?
- Does it give students a language by which to interact with the text?
- Does it enhance learning enough to show marked improvement?
- How does the global learning help learning outcomes of the UMES student?
UMES students watch online videos of 10-to-25 minutes in length featuring Filreis, who also delivers an occasional lesson via a live web-cast. Because he is based at an Ivy League school in Philadelphia, Hagenrater-Gooding is hopeful her students might be able to travel there before the end of the semester to see a web cast in person.
The poetry course is being conducted in what she describes as a “hybrid manner” – students log in to the MOOC for global participation, then return to the traditional face-to-face classroom for “insular UMES interaction.” The classroom is “decentered;” students participate in a roundtable discussion and workshop of the poems covered.
“We’re working out a lot of bugs as we go,” Hagenrater-Gooding said. “The caliber of discussion has increased now that they have to be active participants in their learning. They can’t just check out during a lecture; they have to play a part.”
Assignments are submitted globally and locally. Discussions also are conducted globally and locally.
Hagenrater-Gooding assesses student performance in the usual manner – essays, quizzes, journals, peer reviews, discussions and tests – but the mode of delivery is a blend of traditional in-class lessons and online versions.
Taylor said “I’m glad Dr. Gooding is the instructor. She brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the class. She’s great facilitator of information.”
Bill Robinson, director, public releations, (410) 621-2355