10. What’s a MOOC?

 What’s a MOOC and what can it do for me?

When I graduate from my Masters program, I’ll be able to register as a secondary teacher with the teaching areas of Biology and Geography. That doesn’t scare anyone more than it scares me (well to be honest I have a high school Biology teacher that would be terrified at the prospect, but hopefully a past Geography teacher that will be delighted).

I’ll have studied for two years (not counting my four year undergraduate degree), but that will only scratch the surface of what I need to know to be an effective educator.  Professional-Development-bridges-gap-between-education-and-careerBridging the gap between what I’ve learnt and what I still need to learn will need more than putting theory into practice, it will require me to be proactive and seize as many professional development opportunities as possible.   There is no chance for me to become complacent as under Standard 6, the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers require teachers to engage in professional learning (2017).  In support of this the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority requires me to complete 20 hours of professional development annually (QCAA, 2018).

According to Duarte (2013), students respond better to a teacher that has greater content knowledge.  With some of the world’s top universities contributing to MOOCS, who better to extend my content knowldge than current experts and researchers in their field.  Justin Marquis (2013a) is critical of MOOCs in his blog post MOOC’s The Opium of the Masses  as amongst other things, he views them as watering down education and caving in to a business model.  However, even one of their harshest critics concedes that  MOOCs are Good for Teacher Professional Development!  His reasons being MOOCs are:

  • Free;
  • Flexible;
  • Adaptable;
  • Ongoing;
  • Useful as a classroom resource; and
  • Teachers can teach themselves.

Teachers, who best understand how learning works are best qualified to adjust the process and content to meet their needs (Marquis, 2013b).

I am currently part-way through two MOOCs that are not only interesting, but providing me with professional development.   As a prospective Geography teacher I enrolled in Making Sense of Climate Science Denial because its objectives were relevant and I thought I might be able adopt some of the strategies into my own teaching.


  • How to recognise the social and psychological drivers of climate science denial
  • How to better understand climate change: the evidence that it is happening, that humans are causing it and the potential impacts
  • How to identify the techniques and fallacies that climate myths employ to distort climate science
  • How to effectively debunk climate misinformation

Approach: mini-lectures, video interviews, quizzes, activities, a peer assessed writing assignment, and readings.

Another MOOC I’m currently completing is Deep Learning Through Transformative Pedagogy.  Its description was what piqued my interest:

To facilitate deep learning, teachers will learn how to employ a diverse range of powerful teaching strategies and authentic learning activities to assist students to become independent thinkers, innovative creators, and effective communicators. 

Let us be honest about this, at this stage in my development, anything that is going to add teaching strategies to my repertoire has to be beneficial.

Using the edX online search tool to search for Environmental Studies,  I discovered a range a range of courses that should appeal to Geography teachers.  Here’s just a few of the titles from my search:

  • Sustainable Food Security: Crop Production
  • Cities and the Challenge of Sustainable Development
  • Introduction to Water and Climate
  • Sustainable Food System: A Mediterranean Perspective
  • Tsunamis and Storm Surges: Introduction to Coastal Disasters.

Alternatively, a search for MOOCs for Teachers returned: 

  • Analytics for the Classroom Teacher
  • Classroom Strategies for Inquiry-Based Learning
  • Teaching Historical Inquiry with Objects
  • Leadership and Management in Education.


Who dares to teach must never cease to learn” teachlearnblocks11-300x200

– John Cotton Dana 



Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]. (2017). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards

Duarte, F.P. (2013). Conceptions of Good Teaching by Good Teachers: Case Studies from an Australian University, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice10 (1), Article 5

edX. (2016). mooc.org. Retrieved from http://mooc.org/

Marquis, J. (2013a).  MOOCs – The Opium of the Masses. Retrieved from https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2013/02/moocs-the-opium-masses/

Marquis, J. (2013b). Why MOOCs are Good for Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved from https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2013/05/why-moocs-are-good-for-teacher-professional-development/

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority [QCAA]. (2018). Continuing professional development for teachers. Retrieved from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/pd-events/cpd-teachers


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