UMass Boston’s First MOOC Offers a Classroom in the Cloud

March 12, 2013

Colleen Locke


Registration Now Open for University's First Massive Online Open Course

Imagine taking a course that’s accelerated or slowed down, depending on how well you’re grasping the subject. Imagine that your course materials, including videos, reading, and quizzes are different from every other student in the class. You’ve just imagined the first Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) at University of Massachusetts Boston.

Using technology created by Adjunct Professor of Physics Nishikant Sonwalkar’s company, Synaptic Global Learning, the course will unfold differently for each individual user. Sonwalkar is teaching UMass Boston’s first MOOC, “Molecular Dynamics for Discoveries in Computational Science,” in collaboration with UMass Boston’s College of Science and Mathematics. Registration is now open.

Alan Girelli, director of the Center for Innovation and Excellence in eLearning at the College of Advancing and Professional Studies, says Synaptic Global Learning has provided its Adaptive Mobile Online platform to UMass Boston for free.

“By providing this free, global educational opportunity, the College of Advancing and Professional Studies is consciously extending the mission of Boston’s only public university,” Girelli said. (Hear Girelli discuss MOOCs with Radio BDC here.)

At the beginning of the course, each student will take a quiz designed to assess the student’s learning style. The platform uses analytics to track each learner’s progress in the course and create a customized experience, which Girelli says has never before been offered on this scale.

It evaluates certain tasks, looks at what the individual has struggled with, and re-sequences chunks of content in ways that cater to that individual,” Girelli said. The course includes several videos, but no student will see all of them.

The 12-week online course is free and open to anyone with an Internet connection, although it is best suited for a learner with an undergraduate-level understanding of physics. It should take between five and 10 hours a week to complete. Students who complete the course will receive one of three types of certificates. More information about the course is available online.

UMass Boston’s second MOOC, “Coasts and Communities,” is set to go live in June.