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A New Direction for MOOCs

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at Simon Fraser University (SFU) has seized the opportunity to take the concept of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to a different level.

SFU Lecturer Kate Tairyan is the director of NextGenU, which offers accredited health science higher education courses online for free. The initiative, launched in March 2012, is the first of its kind and is open to an unlimited number of worldwide student enrollments.

“We’re using existing high-quality learning resources in collaboration with internationally recognized co-sponsors,” Tairyan told the Simon Fraser News Online. “Then we create exams and peer-to-peer and mentored activities and migrate the trainings to an interactive open-source learning platform.”

In addition to the MOOCs currently offered, NextGenU will soon allow students to enroll in a new specialized pilot course focused on environmental public health. The pilot MOOC is both sponsored and endorsed by the International Society of Doctors, but is expected to only be open to FHS graduates.

Traditionally, MOOCs are offered exclusively online to anyone, without any face-to-face interaction with classmates or professors. This is one of the reasons why MOOCs have been subject to heated criticism and skepticism since they burst onto the higher education scene. However, it is expected that the pilot MOOC offered through NextGenU will have face-to-face meetings every other week with the professor and fellow peers to talk about course specific topics.