University of Canterbury launches free global online short courses

The University of Canterbury (UC) is joining global online learning platform edX to offer free, short courses to the world.

  • BenKen_NWS

    Associate Professor Ben Kennedy will lead the Exploring Volcanoes and Their Hazards: Iceland and New Zealand Course.

The UC platform, named UCx, will initially offer six courses in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Typically of short duration, MOOCs are delivered online to thousands and sometimes millions of students, with course content presented through high-quality video segments, and an emphasis on learning, rather than assessment.

From November, UCx will start offering MOOCs. Courses that will be available over the coming months include: Exploring Volcanoes and Their Hazards: Iceland and New Zealand (Associate Professor Ben Kennedy); Smart Cities (Associate Professor Chris Vas); Statistical Analysis in R (Professor Elena Moltchanova); Text Analytics with Python (Dr Jonathan Dunn); A Better Start to Reading (Professor Gail Gillon); and, Mental Health and Nutrition (Professor Julia Rucklidge).

With increasing global demand for online education, the move gives UC an opportunity to reach a large, growing international market, while enabling greater access for learners in Aotearoa New Zealand, says UC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic |Tumu Tuarua Akoranga Professor Catherine Moran.

“UC’s MOOCs offering will feature alongside some of the most highly regarded universities in the world, providing significant benefits in brand recognition, increased engagement with potential students and increases in online distance learner enrolments,” Professor Moran says.

“These courses reinforce our commitment to deliver accessible, lifelong learning opportunities for all – whether that is in the form of professional and career development education or education for interest.”

The initial UCx offering has been chosen based on demand, showcasing areas where UC is leading the way globally. One such course is Mental Health and Nutrition, which Professor Julia Rucklidge says is in response to significant global interest in this field of research.

“At present, UC is unique internationally in offering a 400-level course on mental health and food, and I am regularly contacted by people wanting more information who are unable to travel to New Zealand to complete the course,” she says.

“Now I can direct them to UCx, perhaps setting them on a different journey to understanding the relationship between their dietary intake of nutrients and their mental health. With a worldwide mental health crisis, it’s so positive that we can bring that knowledge to every global citizen.”

Volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy says the online platform provides an “incredible opportunity” for people who may never be able to visit an active volcano.

“We have spent the last two years developing award-winning virtual tools, including 3D rocks and interactive volcano landscapes, so students will get the feeling of visiting volcanoes and learning the tools that volcanologist use in the field. Students will also hear diverse views from a range of people who live and work with volcanoes – from scientists who want to drill into active volcanoes to experts in Māori knowledge about volcanoes,” he says.

MOOCs also provide an ideal opportunity to explore a new topic or area of interest before committing to a full programme of study, says Linguistics lecturer Dr Jonathan Dunn.

“The Text Analytics course is about how we deal with the massive increase in written knowledge that this generation faces, bringing together linguistics, computer science, and artificial intelligence,” Dr Dunn says.

“An online platform is the ideal, native environment for learning how this works, providing a low-pressure environment for learning new skills. By trying the Text Analytics MOOC, students can discover if they want to take this further, such as enrolling in our new Bachelor of Data Science.”

Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and founder says edX is excited to welcome the University of Canterbury to the edX partner network with the launch of their first MOOCs.

“UC is joining a unique group of colleges, universities, and companies working to expand access to, and transform, education around the world, and we’re thrilled our 35 million learners now have the opportunity to gain access to this high-quality learning,” he says.

Courses are free, however students can choose to pay a fee to complete an examination and receive a certificate on completion of the course.

Enrolments are now open, visit canterbury.ac.nz/study/online/moocs

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