Published on 2013/05/31

MOOCs Encourage Alumni Lifelong Learning

A professor at Vanderbilt University has figured out a way to kill two of higher education’s biggest birds with a single stone.

Many colleges and universities are struggling to determine how to better serve and engage with their alumni. At the same time, many institutions are trying to understand how to use Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to their advantage.

Doug Fisher, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at Vanderbilt University, thinks institutions should bring the two together. He proposes developing free online courses for alumni to stay current in their fields — even suggesting that alumni could teach some of the online courses.

After all, according to Fisher, if a student paid tuition to a given university, they should continue to have access to that institution’s educational resources through their career.

“We might discover special educational needs of mid-career people,” Fisher told Fox News. “There might be courses that are specially tailored to alumni at a particular school.”

Julia Stiglitz, director of community and partnerships at Coursera, told Fox News she thinks MOOCs provide institutions an opportunity to create lifelong bonds with their alumni.

“Learning is going to be something that extends through people’s lives, and people’s relationships with their schools is going to extend, as well,” she said.

As it becomes increasingly evident that employees will have to continue learning through their careers in order to be successful in the labor market, and as universities search for ways to encourage their students to engage in lifelong learning after graduation, providing ongoing education MOOCs for alumni could be a way for institutions to accomplish this goal.

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