Breaking new ground with Coursera’s first US-based Learning Hub

Dominican University of California offers University of London Understanding Research Methods MOOC
MOOC participants
MOOC participants at Dominican University of California
My goal was for the Hub participants to complete the MOOC with an articulated and rigorous plan for executing their projects

Earlier this year, at the invitation of Coursera’s President, Daphne Koller, Dominican University of California became Coursera’s first US-based Learning Hub – a physical space where students meet with a course facilitator for discussion, group work and a short lecture. And the first MOOC to be offered ‘on campus’ by Dominican was the University of London’s ‘Understanding Research Methods’, a six-week course aimed at demystifying research and research methods which attracted over 40,000 students worldwide.

Commenting on their partnership with Coursera, Dominican’s Special Assistant to the Provost and project coordinator, Jamie Castner, said: “The Coursera Learning Hub project is part of the strategic direction at Dominican to explore the blending of high-impact practices with technology-mediated instruction. Specifically, we are interested in determining if the online learning environment of a MOOC can be enhanced, even improved, by the integration of bricks-and-mortar pedagogical components such as  undergraduate research, community-based learning, writing intensive assignments, and learning communities, among others. Are students more likely to achieve their learning goals from a MOOC if it is paired with one or more of these practices?”

With ages ranging from 19 to 60-plus, Dominican’s Learning Hub of 17 students was made up of current Dominican students, Dominican alumni, local professionals and one or two members of staff.

“The ‘Understanding Research Methods’ MOOC was delivered by a prestigious University,” Jamie notes, “fit our summer timeline, and was general enough to appeal to a wide audience. A course on research methods was well-suited to group projects and discussion.”

"The value of our Hub was that we discussed their actual research projects, providing each other with feedback and input in real time."

Dominican’s Learning Hub facilitator and Senior Advisor for Strategy and Planning, Hanna Rodriguez-Farrar, said: “The MOOC provided the Learning Hub participants with a broad overview about research. The value of our Hub was that we discussed their actual research projects, providing each other with feedback and input in real time; it was a vibrant learning community for all of us. My goal was for the Hub participants to complete the MOOC with an articulated and rigorous plan for executing their projects.

“Research topics included sustainable farming, the effect of teacher leadership on learning, the impact of home schooling on chronically-ill children, and the discipline of practical theology in non-religious contexts.”

Ethan, a course participant who works as an academic librarian, said: “I learned a great deal from my interactions with the students and with the facilitator of our learning hub. It taught me a lot about the different information needs of others around me. I will use the knowledge to help better meet those information needs and to do a better job of teaching information literacy skills.”

Another participant, Katherine, commented that the MOOC provided “a great overview of research techniques and strategies. I wish I'd had this class while I was writing my Master’s thesis!”

"Having designed our MOOC we were delighted to be involved in the exciting development of Coursera’s Learning Hub at Dominican University of California."

The University of London instructors for the MOOC were Dr J Simon Rofe, a Senior Lecturer in Diplomacy and International Studies at SOAS, and Dr Yenn Lee, a Research Skills Trainer/Coordinator in the Academic Development Directorate at SOAS.

Simon, who is also Programme Director for the MA in Global Diplomacy programme offered through the University of London International Programmes, commented: “Having designed our MOOC we were delighted to be involved in the exciting development of Coursera’s Learning Hub at Dominican University of California. The opportunity to utilise MOOCs and other online courses in the classroom is a logical extension of the blending of technology and our everyday lives, and something that our students will increasingly come to expect as the clear distinctions between campus and distance learning merge seamlessly as part of the learning experience.”

  • For more information about MOOCs offered by the University of London, please visit the Coursera website.