MOOCF == Massive Open Online Course Flipped

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MOOCF stands for Massive Open Online Course Flipped. This blog recommends that Alberta’s Computer Science Education (CSE) teachers rapaidly incorporate MOOCF strategies into Alberta’s Computer Science Eduction (CSE) that they teach.

“Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing.” (Flip teaching. In Wikipedia. Retrieved 6 May 2013, from There is no rule that specifies that content must be delivered at home. Neither is there a rule that forbids home use of a MOOC. This is true for books, tutorials and videos. It is true for MOOCs. Do what is best for your students!

Flipped Teaching

Be cautious with the kind and quantitty of tasks that you ask students to do outside of class. Know what works for your students. Top academic students can do an entire MOOC course at home with minimal guidance from a classroom teacher. That cannot be said of all students.

It’s not either about being either a “sage on the stage” or a “guide on the side”. I disdain “either/or” choices in life. They destroy flexibility. I personally enjoy a 90 minute lecture that needs 90 minutes, not to fill a time slot, but to clearly and completely explain a model or process.

Sage or Guide

I enjoy 5 minute tutorials, 20 minute TED Talks, 60 minute Charlie Rose interviews, 90 minute movies, 300 minute opera and all day hikes.

Where a resource “better” presents content than a human teacher, the teacher can judiciously integrate that resource into their instructional regime. The best MOOCs are superior resources. They are not magic bullets, but best MOOCs offer potent opportunities for learning.

Non-human media and resources may now enable and support student experiences that would be problematic if not impossible for human teachers to deliver with but a naked lecture. Excellent resources deliver more than content. They deliver unique opportunities.

I digress to make two points.

For a decade, as a Law 20/30 teacher, I showed students the 1961 film, Judgment at Nuremberg, because I alone could not come close to the film’s dramatic depiction of the Nuremberg Trials and Spencer Tracy’s dramatic condemnation of the conduct of the “men who sat in black robes” in Nazi Germany.

For over two decades, as a Computer Science teacher, I showed Kubrick’s 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, because it skillfully compared human and machine intelligence as it linked the dawn of man as killer ape to the computer HAL’s insubordinate attempt to wrestle from astronaut Dave’s control of Jupiter mission.

To “teleport” the 1960’s Star Trek crew from ship to earth and back, members were “dematerialized” into what may be described as an “algorithm”. The crew members on the ship were physically “destroyed”, then the algorithm was sent to earth to “rematerialize” the crew. I used this Star Trek gimmick to confront students with questions of life and death and the “essence” of humaness. Can an algrorithm capture the “soul” of a person? Without Star Trek, I am not sure how I, a mere Computer Science teacher, might have inspired the profound discussions that Star Trek episodes weekly prompted among more reflective fans.

I never once felt that my role was threatened by movies and Star Trek episodes. I could never replicate the dramatic delivery of Spencer Tracey or the creative genius of Stanley Kubrick or the wild imagination of Gene Roddenberry. I was ecstatic to share these amazingly rich resources with my students, resources that led to profound learning by my students. Judgment at Nuremberg led to reflection that law must serve the ends of justice and not governments. 2001: A Space Odyssey questioned the nature of humans and whether to program values as well as intelligence in whatever computers may become. Every episode of Star Trek challenged conventional conceptions of the human condition.

If you wonder what the above has to do with CSE teaching, I will remind you of something we have all heard before, “We teach students, not subjects.” But admittedly, for a teacher like myself who loves the journey, a MOOCF offers discipline and focus.

OK, points made: (1) Technologies (really, “techniques”) do many important things better than human teachers. (2) Content becomes relevant when given context.

A MOOC is a Swiss Army Knife of multiple resources for teaching and learning. Teachers can embrace MOOCs as awesome learning media just as conventional teaching embraces textbooks, videos and test banks. A well produced MOOC adds one more, amazing resource to our teaching arsenal in facilitating learning. Some learning objectives will be best achieved with a book or video, but other learning objectives will be best achieved with a MOOC. I never hike without my Swiss Army Knife. The teacher of the near future will usually carry a MOOC in their bag of pedagogical tricks.

Swiss Army Knife

The MOOC platform is not a panacea, but neither is it a passing fad. The best MOOCs of 2013 will see a combination of technology, globalization, big money, Hollywood quality production, and some of the smartest educators on the planet coalese around this twenty-first century learning platform.

The best 2013 MOOCs magnify and amplify what already exists to an extent that was not technologically possible a decade ago.

Veteran teachers have for decades honed teaching prowess with elements that we see in today’s best MOOCs.  Adopt a textbook that best combines scope, sequence, correctness, clarity and practice for the specific cohort of students in the teacher’s charge. Access problem sets that challenge at multiple levels. Seek tutorials that deliver bite sized instruction in baby steps that may be fully mastered rather than nineteenth century tombs that flow on forever … but (a huge “but”) train students to take advantage of those demanding tombs. View videos that incorporate content not easily delivered by a classroom teacher, such as historical footage, animated characterizations of complicated processes and abstract concepts, and blessed was the teacher who found a video that did this with humour. Respect and care deeply for students while maintaining a discreet distance that promotes objective assessment and feedback. Teach for mastery and not credits.

Animated Teacher

Discover where the MOOC best serves your students. Some students will prefer to do most of their learning with a MOOC, but some will do best with a using a MOOC to supplement traditional resources. There may be a few students for whom MOOCs do not work at all.

Alberta teachers already use aspects of flip teaching. Teachers such as Calgary’s Josh Prowse (Lester B. Pearson H.S.) and Carson Cheng (Ernest Manning High School) and Edmonton’s Lance Pedersen (Jasper Place High School) prepare brief instructional videos that students may veiw any time. The practice of interlacing instructional videos prepared in advance that a student may access from anywhere at anytime is the begininng of the blended classroom.

Traditional teaching found students receiving instruction in classrooms superivsed by their teacher and doing “homework”, as the term suggests, when at home. Strictly speaking a “flipped” classroom finds students receiving instruction at home and doing problem solving, assignments, and projects away from home, perhaps at school, or engaging virtually. Both the traditional and “flipped” scenarios are Platonic “ideal types”. Real world teachers will find some point on the continuum between those Platonic ideal types that best facilitates the learning of the students for whom they serve.

There may be a signiicant advantage to simultaneously receive the same instruction, be it a live teacher or a MOOC video, while students are “together” so that they may spontaneously feed off each other’s reactions to a presentation. In a physical classroom, the presentation may be live from a present teacher or a recorded video, but there is added value to student reaction and interaction during syncrynous presentations.

The options are all good for student learning. Education has already forever changed. US high school students can now earn university credit recognized by most US universities this year (Canada next year) for $150 by taking an interactive course from one of the most experienced CSE educators in the world. Oracle Academy does not have three years. The gates are opened and in this race the top thoroughbreds are already rounding the first post. Who are those thoroughbreds?

Three MOOC Entities

  1. Coursea offers 379 courses from 69 partners such as Standford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, University of Tokyo, and University of Toronto.

  2. edX has partners Harvard, Berkeley, Rice, McGill and University of Toronto.

  3. Udacity is a private educational organization working through Standford, Google, Nvidia, MicroSoft, Wolfram Research and in partnership with San Jose State University.

Charlie Rose Interview

On 25 April 2013, Charlie Rose interviewed some of the most involved, knowledgeable people in applying the MOOC to today’s student learning. Click below for a discussion about Online education with Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; Joel Klein, former New York City Schools chancellor and CEO of Amplify and Tom Friedman of the New York Times. Click on the following link or picture to view the interview.

Charlie Rose 40 Minute MOOC Interview: 25 April 2013

Charlie Rose Interview 25 April 2013

Online Proctoring by ProcotorU

One of the greatest threats to the integrity of online examination is cheating. The company that San Jose State University will use for the Horstmann Java MOOC is ProctorU. Does this meet the same standards as traditional in-person proctoring? Judge for yourself.


About the Author:

Gerry Donaldson was Calgary’s first high school teacher to use a lab of personal computers. Gerry taught CSE, including CTS, AP and IB Computer Science, for 30 years before teaching and consulting to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary.
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  1. Peter Mantjos  January 18, 2014

    I have been an online student for 8 years. I got my associates, bachelors, masters and doing my phd online. It is fascinating and the best learning experience i ever embarked on. I have the internet at my finger tips, school virtual libraries to find resources pertaining my courses, youtube videos and much more. There is nothing like e-learning and i think it is a lot better than classroom learning. I would guess just from talking to people that 90-95 % of the people who take classroom classes forget the material very fast. I think that online learning allows the information to stay with you because your getting viable information everyday from different sources so in essence the information will stay with you much longer. whats the point of going to college or master your craft if you dont get others views and opinions as opposed to reading a text book? anybody can do that by going to barnes and nobles. Also for everybody that thinks that online instructors and mentors dont help are mistaken, all my professors and mentors have been there, through e-mails, discussion boards, videoconferencing and telephone meetings to asses assignments and progress.

  2. brand mentions  February 3, 2016


    Thank you for your comments.

    Google translated your Japanese as: “Howdy just wanted to give a quick head to you . | Safari you seem to be running off the screen to the word content of the text . A problem or a Web browser something | If this is the format , I compatibility do not know , I figured I’d post to let you know . Design but look ! Immediately solve solve | a problem I hope you get . toast”

    I honestly don’t know if the problem lies with Safari or WordPress. Since we write blogging software to run in multiple browsers, we have to conclude that the fault lies with WordPress or myself in that we did not design the site to run with Safari. I no longer test this site with Safari since I only have a Windows machine and Apple stopped developing Safari for Windows some time ago. We will not be amending this site to run on Safari.



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