MCC online course has global reach

CRYSTAL LAKE – A new online course at McHenry County College focusing on online reputation is reaching well beyond the classroom, bringing together students from across the globe.

More than 300 students from about 30 countries and 10 states are in the midst of the community college’s first massive open online course.

MCC is the first community college in the state to offer such a course, school officials said. The three-week online venture is free with no limitation on how many students can participate and doesn’t include college credit.

“Massive, open online courses are a very hot topic in higher education right now,” said Kate Harger, MCC’s library dean and one of three instructors overseeing the course.

“They are part of a growing movement to be more innovative and see what is possible outside of the classroom.”

Unlike traditional online courses that usually charge tuition, include credit and have limited enrollment, massive open online courses are free, credit-less and open to anyone anywhere.

According to a New York Times story published in November 2012, the hope is the free courses can bring the best education in the world to the most remote corners of the planet, help people in their careers and expand intellectual and personal networks.

The massive online courses started a few years ago at Ivy League schools and have quickly grown to include large consortiums, including edX, Coursera and Udacity.

The course at the Crystal Lake-based community college is being offered in collaboration with the Canvas Network, a company that offers students, teachers and institutions an opportunity to connect through an open, online course network. The college also is in the midst of switching over its online course management system to the Canvas Network.

While brainstorming what the massive open online course at MCC would cover, officials decided to offer a class geared toward success in the workplace after college.

“Online Reputation for Career Success” explores the concept of online reputation and its potential impact on participants’ job searches, employability and career success. It discusses how online accounts such as Twitter and Facebook can affect job outlooks, and covers the skills and strategies needed to improve an online reputation.

“There’s value in teaching students about their online reputation, how to search for it, evaluate it and manage it,” Harger said. “Students spend all that time and money on school, and they could be self-sabotaging themselves by being crazy on social media websites.”

The course allows students to work at their own pace and log into the course at their convenience, and includes online lessons and discussion forums with auto-graded quizzes. Students are required to dedicate four hours of work for the course each week on the Internet.

Unlike traditional courses where the teacher is the expert, instructors serve as facilitators.

“I don’t have to proclaim to be an expert on online reputation because there are students in this course who have more expertise and can share that [knowledge] with others in class,” Harger said. “It’s a flipped classroom with the instructor delivering the content while serving as a guide on the side.”

Joannie Moran hopes to teach high school math some day.

The Crystal Lake resident signed up for the course as a way to improve her online communication skills.

“I want to learn more and more about online reputation and how people can be saved with their reputation,” said Moran, 19. “I would like to learn to be safe about my online reputation and learn how to communicate with other people online.”

MCC plans to continue to offer massive open online courses, but also sees each opportunity as a way for students to try online education for free.

“Online courses aren’t for everyone,” Harger said. “It’s on the student to see if they progress and like it.”

For information, visit www.mchenry.edu.

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