From Peru to Pakistan, and from Ethiopia to Estonia, the worldwide demand for English language learning programs is insatiable. The Office of English Language Programs at the U.S. Department of State helps address this need through U.S. embassies around the world in collaboration with ministries of education, teacher education institutions, professional teacher associations, and other partners. In addition to reaching out to English language learners, we also train teachers to strengthen the teaching of English worldwide. While traditional exchanges and in-person training programs often limit participant numbers, we have successfully added a relatively new tool to our list that is scalable to global demand: the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.
In spring 2014, we launched the Shaping the Way We Teach English MOOC in collaboration with the University of Oregon and Coursera, an educational technology company. The MOOC immediately broke two Coursera records: the largest number of non-U.S.-based participants and the highest completion rate. During the call for participants, embassies around the world understood the power of this tool to respond to the hunger among teachers for new ideas and techniques. They reached out to alumni of other State Department exchange programs and networks of teaching professionals via email, Facebook, and Twitter to eventually attract about 40,000 participants from 179 countries.
In order to build a more interactive aspect to the course offering and support first-time MOOC participants, many embassies, through their Regional English Language Officers (RELOs), established an opportunity for participants to come together for a series of in-person workshops that addressed the MOOC topics. This unique combination of online content delivery with follow-up face-to-face interaction -- labelled “MOOC Camps” -- proved to be the right recipe to attain an unprecedented 10 percent completion rate (the MOOC average is 4 percent).
"Shaping 1" and "Shaping 2" have given me so many powerful tools to improve my teaching and understanding of the ongoing process of learning that a mere "thank you" does not suffice to describe how I perceive the benefits gained by my participation in them. A sincere "Thank You" from the heart! (MOOC Participant)
Based on the successful outcomes, we are offering the course again in 2015. The Shaping the Way We Teach English MOOC will be offered twice, beginning on January 5th and April 6th. Designed for professionals already working in the area of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or studying to become EFL teachers, these ten-week courses offer readings, videos, and discussion boards in order to help participants fully absorb the modern learning-centered methodology. Uploaded lesson plans that are reviewed by peers serve as a final project and allow participants to receive a certificate of successful completion. For more information or to sign-up, please visit: www.coursera.org/course/shaping1landscape.
It was an excellent course! I adored my tutors. I enjoyed participating with other professors since they share their own experiences of what works in their classrooms and for their students. (MOOC Participant)
The multimedia-rich learning environment of the Shaping the Way We Teach MOOCs gives EFL educators the chance to join others from around the world in a unique learning experience, and the MOOC camps allow the participants to contextualize the ideas and share their knowledge locally. Definitely a win-win for all involved.
About the Author: Kerri Hannan serves as Director of the Office of English Language Programs in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). For more information about ECA programs, follow @ECAatState on Twitter.