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Learning, Design and Technology Faculty Members Win International Awards for Publications

Sara McNeil, Bernard Robin, and Mimi LeeTwo books featuring content written by associate professors Mimi Lee, Sara McNeil and Bernard Robin, Learning, Design and Technology faculty members in the University of Houston, College of Education (UH COE), recently won two international awards from the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT).

MOOCs and Open Education Around the World won first place in the AECT Division of Distance Learning Book Award competition. This award is given to an outstanding book published within the last three years that provides important theoretical or practical aspects of distance education that can help others involved in distance education or those researching an important aspect of distance education.

MOOCs and Open Education Around the WorldMOOCs and Open Education Around the World “explores and illuminates unique implementations of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and open education across regions and nations” and also focuses on the dilemmas and opportunities present in this ever-changing time of technology-enabled learning.

Lee was one of the editors of the book and contributed to the preface and the final chapter, and Drs. Robin and McNeil wrote a chapter about “The Collaborative Design and Development of MOOCs for Teacher Professional Development.”  This chapter describes the collaborative design and development of two MOOCs on Digital Storytelling and Web 2.0 tools by teams of graduate students in the UH College of Education.

Lee said, "The idea for this book came out of the special preconference symposium in Las Vegas at the International E-learn Conference in 2013 that my colleagues and I coordinated. MOOCs and Open Education Around the World has successfully captured the excitement of the participants and audience of that day as well as the continuous interest and discussion in this important topic. I am deeply appreciative and humbled by the attention and the recognition that this book has received."

The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development, and ImplementationIn addition, McNeil and Robin also wrote a chapter in The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development, and Implementation, a book that won second place in the same international competition. This chapter, “A Student-Centered Collaborative Design Model for the Development of MOOCs” described the challenges of designing and developing MOOCs from both faculty and student perspectives and provided insight into process. Drs. McNeil and Robin were the only two authors who contributed to both award-winning books.

Both awards will be presented at the 2016 AECT International Convention in Las Vegas in October.

The College of Education MOOCs are offered on the Coursera platform and explore innovative technology tools that K-16 teachers can use in their classrooms to support active student learning. One MOOC focuses on the educational use of digital storytelling and the other MOOC deals with the use of emerging technologies such as Web 2.0 tools for instructional purposes. “Forty thousand students from around the world participated in the first two MOOCs. It’s a wonderful chance to develop, implement and evaluate curriculum for diverse learners in over 184 countries, with almost half from emerging economies,” said McNeil. "We believe that offering MOOCS helps promote the programs and reputation of the College of Education and enriches UH’s portfolio of public engagement offerings to the global community of learners."

Robin added, "MOOCs are a very hot topic in education today and involving College of Education graduate students in the design and creation process has been a wonderful experience, both for us as educators and for our students as curriculum developers. Based on our work creating these first MOOCs, we have learned more about designing instructional content and pedagogy that has helped us with our campus-based courses and will enable us to improve our future online endeavors."

One of the students who participated in designing and developing the MOOCs said, “Designing a MOOC was a unique learning experience for me. Trying to learn about something and simultaneously designing it can be demanding especially when most of us did not know much about MOOCs…I found it very interesting because every week we would learn new things with our professors or read an article that had just been released. I think that we learned a great deal about MOOCs by designing one, and I can’t think of a better way of learning about an evolving field like MOOCs.”

The unique collaborative design and development process using authentic projects is a characteristic of the Learning, Design and Technology program. Over the past decade, student teams have created many projects for community partners such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Childrens’ Museum of Houston, Houston Public Broadcasting, and the UH Blaffer Gallery.

The collaborative design and development process involved sharing insights, solving problems and exploring new ideas through discussions that were helpful in formulating design strategies, redefining goals and redesigning the course content. The graduate students reported that they have learned a great deal about the theories, frameworks and current issues related to MOOCs, and several students have written articles and presented at international conferences about their experiences.

One of the students reflected about what she learned, “I believe my experience in the design and development of MOOCs has helped me gain fresh perspectives about online learning in general. In the future this experience will help me create better ubiquitous learning experiences in my course design for my learners.”

MOOCs are one more example of how educational technology is having a significant impact on teaching and learning. By helping design and create MOOCs, students in the Learning, Design and Technology Program are gaining firsthand experience developing technology tools and resources that can be used by teachers and students in Texas and throughout the world.