Melinda (left) and Bill Gates (right).
An online writing course with 10,000 enrolled students offered through the Ohio State Department of English recently received a $50,000 grant.
The Department of English was awarded a $50,000 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant for creating a massive open online course, commonly referred to as MOOC, called “Writing II: Rhetorical Composition.”
OSU is one of the four programs nationally to receive this award; others are programs at Duke, Georgia Tech and Mt. San Jacinto.
After OSU’s recent partnership with Coursera, an online non-credit platform where anyone can sign up for classes, the program investigator for the grant research, Kay Halasek, said the platform is another way the university can take advantage of online resources.
“I know Ohio State is very interested in entering into this area of online communication because (the university has) not been a strong contributor in the past,” Halasek said. “It’s an opportunity for Ohio State to become a leader nationally and internationally in the MOOCs.”
Halasek said the course will pull some aspects from a typical second writing class at OSU, but it will not strictly be modeled after it.
Anyone can sign up for this course. Individuals from all over the U.S. and other parts of the world, including India, China and many English-speaking countries, make up the 10,000 people currently enrolled in the course.
This course will also serve as an opportunity for second-level writing and other English instructors to learn what methods work best for the classroom.
“We felt it was important as writing instructors … to step out into this particular online environment to determine whether a MOOC is the kind of environment that would be a productive site for writing education,” Halasek said.
Sarah Touvell, a third-year in social work, said she tends to stay away from online classes.
“You’re not in class actually hearing someone say things and teaching you one-on-one, so I’m not a huge fan of online classes,” Touvell said.
Tiger Litam, a third-year in biology, said he thinks online classes are effective, but he would miss certain aspects of in-person learning.
“I’d rather have the social interaction that comes with actually going to class, I think it makes things more personal,” Litam said.
Halasek is working with a team that includes five English department faculty members and two graduate students.
At the end of the 10-week session, Halasek and the team will tackle the questions of what aspects work in an online writing class.
The online course will serve as a learning method for instructors to reflect on their own teaching style.
“We hope that nationally … researchers and scholars in writing studies will also benefit,” Halasek said.
The writing course will go live on Coursera from April 22 to June 30, and it is free and open to anyone for enrollment.
Representatives from the Seattle-based Gates Foundation did not return requests for comment.