December 12, 2013, by Helen Whitehead

Advent calendar #12: an innovative educational platform

Subarna Sivapalan is a PhD candidate and teacher in Malaysia who helped to facilitate the NOOC – Nottingham Open Online Course – which was the pilot for the MOOC Sustainability, Society and You which starts on January 6th and can be joined now for free on the FutureLearn website.

The NOOC as an innovative educational platform

When Sarah approached me in early January 2012 to help with the facilitation of the Perspectives on Sustainability NOOC module, I must admit that I was very excited, but a little nervous.

What got me anxious was how effective I was going to be teaching in a virtual educational environment. I have become so used to face to face teaching over my 11 years of teaching undergraduate students in Malaysia, so the mere thought of facilitating a learning experience for ‘faceless’ students got me a little worried. But having gone through the experience of facilitating versions 1 and 2 of the Perspectives on Sustainability NOOC, I must say that it has been such an enjoyable one. I have never seen an online learning platform being used as extensively as we do on the NOOC.

Although there is weekly structured input, participants have the luxury of choosing when they want to attempt the tasks, and where they want to attempt it from. All is needed is an internet connection and a suitable computer, tablet or phone, to connect you with the learning module.  The innovative ways in which the videos, blogs, polls, webinar sessions and online discussions topics are presented not only make the Perspectives on Sustainability NOOC teaching and learning experience fun, but also makes it easily understood and engaging.

I am now, what you could call a MOOC convert! I highly recommend the use of MOOCs in higher education as it really is a very effective teaching and learning tool, given the flexibility it provides learners as well as educators. The learning experience is also more meaningful, as MOOCs promote active learning, stimulates interaction amongst students and educators using a less formal approach, and encourages collaborative learning.

My experience facilitating the NOOC has also made me grow as a researcher and educator. The NOOC has been an excellent avenue for me to share my thoughts and interests in education for sustainable development and sustainability communication with a community of like-minded individuals from all over the world. An important issue I have extracted out the many discussions we have had in the forums is that sustainable development is a global issue, with international, regional and local impact. I also gathered through these sessions that while many of us are aware of the impact of our present actions to the environment, society and economy, the lack of effective educational interventions at primary, secondary and higher education levels could be detrimental to the sustainable development agenda as a whole. MOOCs should therefore be exploited to get this essential message across.

Posted in Advent calendarMOOCMOOC Team