DECEMBER 20, 2014 Brian Murray

MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSE (MOOC) FOR BUSINESS MATH

MOOCs are steadily gaining ground in the post-secondary education system. With the convenience of flexible online class times, MOOCs allow learners to fit courses into their own schedules.


In 2014, the country’s first MOOC for Business Math was successfully delivered by Holland College that is located in the beautiful Prince Edward Island. Of the 85 students enrolled in the pilot MOOC, 71 were from Canada, with the remaining taking the course all around the globe.


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This report summarizes the development and delivery, student demographic, and institutional impact of the MOOC for Business Math that was delivered at Holland College.


Development and Delivery

The initial setup of the MOOC required instructor time in advance of the course as it was the first time it was being delivered. It also required instructor time and part-time staff (technical support, instructional support and assessment team) while the course was active.


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The MOOC for Business Math contained the following resources:


  • video-based lectures
  • interactive mastery-based lessons
  • algorithmic online labs, assessments, exams
  • etextbook, solution manuals, PowerPoint presentations, calculator resources,
  • individual and overall class performance via real-time online dashboards

The development and delivery of the MOOC was supported by Vretta, a leading Canadian education technology company, which provided access to its business math learning and testing resources on its cloud-based technology platform to enable students to have a seamless learning experience.


Student Demographic

The student demographic showed that the MOOC for Business Math attracted a new group of students who may not be able to attend in-class sessions due to work obligations or other limitations, or are simply looking to expand their knowledge in business math.


Unlike in-class courses at Holland College, 40% of the students in the MOOC were between the ages of 45-64 years of age, 18% between the ages of 25-34 years and 18% between 35-44 years.


When asked for their current occupation or career goal, 29% of the students indicated that they were already working in the business field. Only 7% of students in the course were full-time students and 10% indicated they were currently unemployed. The remainder were from fields ranging from healthcare and education to retirees.


The respondents were asked to choose from a list as to what their motivation was for taking the course; they were allowed to choose more than one item as a motivator. 47% indicated that they were curious to take on online course, 39% indicated that the course would be fun and enjoyable, 35% felt that business math would help them with current job, and 33% wanted the credential to enhance their resume. This is interesting as it indicates that one third of respondents are potentially searching for online courses to obtain a credential and may not have the time to return to school as a full time student. This was also the first time that 94% of the respondents had taken a MOOC style of course.


For the majority of students, this was not their first introduction to post-secondary education. 67% of the students indicated that they already had some college or university education, 16% already had college diplomas and 29% had university degrees, yet all were willing to take an introductory business math course indicating great interest in basic business math education.


When asked about prior knowledge or experience in Business Math, the majority (59%) indicated that they were mostly new to the subject. Close to 29% of the respondents indicated that that they had some coursework or experience in Business Math. This may help explain why so many university graduates were interested in the course and probably indicates that they did their studies in something other than business. It was also interesting that the majority of respondents were interested in gaining more knowledge in business math and listed this as what they hoped to achieve by taking this course.


Institutional Impact

The coming five to ten years will be a bumpy ride for traditional institutions. As a system, higher education is not structured for rapid change, and there will be a battle of cultures as educational technology intersects with slow-paced, conservative educational structures. Traditional institutions will likely see more turmoil and even successes than they are used to in a short period of time. Is online education the answer to change in higher education? No. There is no single answer, and online education is not appropriate for all situations. But now that MOOCs have changed the assumptions and the discussions at the executive and board level, complacency or even gradual change is no longer acceptable. That is the real transformative power of the current generation of online educational delivery models.


Aside from their capacity to stimulate innovation on campus, MOOCs offer a chance to showcase faculty, connect with alumni, and support the College’s strategic goals around (1) Learner Experience; (2) Staff Success; and (3) Sustainability; all of which are signature strengths for the institution. Also as Colleges move forward with a new academic model, interdisciplinary courses are challenging to mount on campus, where faculty have limited time allotted for teaching outside their home departments, courses need to be approved for cross-listing, and students must be reassured that credits earned will be counted toward their credential. In this context, faculty might use the MOOC platform as a test-bed for rapid prototyping and piloting of interdisciplinary courses with the goal of building a case for their inclusion within the College’s approved curriculum.


This MOOC in Business Math has had a positive impact at Holland College. This has provided Holland College with a track record to follow in order to offer more of these types of courses in the future. The Business Math course in particular was so successful in being offered as an online course to students that Holland College has decided to offer all sections of Business Math 100% online in January 2015.


This level of confidence could not have been achieved had it not been for this pilot project which proved that students could be successful in taking this type of course purely in an online format. Holland College also intends to offer on campus tutorial sessions for students as they take their Business Math course online in January 2015, and will be using the resources that were produced from the pilot project. The College will also be pursuing the purchase of a large screen portable monitor to accommodate small groups of students who would want to review these videos in small groups using our study rooms.


The students that take Holland College’s business programs in China represent a huge opportunity for this new delivery format. There is absolutely no development needed in order to make this math program available to students in China and it would provide added value to our partnership in China. There are also plans underway to offer another MOOC style Business Math course in February 2015. With very little effort, the materials could be made available to MOOC students who would see this as a way of taking a free online course from Holland College.


Brian Murray BBA, MBA, DBA (IP)
Learning Manager Business Administration
Holland College


If you would like information on delivering a MOOC in Mathematics at your college, email info@vretta.com.

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