Volker Hegelheimer, professor of English, and Kimberly Becker, graduate student in English, taught a MOOC course this spring with nearly 11,000 participants enrolled from all over the world.
Volker Hegelheimer, professor of English, and Kimberly Becker, graduate student in English, taught a MOOC course this spring with nearly 11,000 participants enrolled from all over the world.

Applied linguistics MOOC has worldwide impact

English language teachers around the world learned more about incorporating technology into their classrooms in a massive open online course (MOOC) through the Applied Linguistics program in the Department of English at Iowa State.

Volker Hegelheimer, professor of English, and Kimberly Becker, graduate student in English, taught the five-week course this spring with nearly 11,000 participants enrolled from all over the world.

The course developed out of a global online course the department has hosted for two years, with several of its alumni serving as facilitators in the MOOC. Additionally, most of the faculty in the English department that are part of the applied linguistics program contributed to the development of the course.

“We're sharing the expertise that we have here collectively in the field of technology and English language teaching,” Hegelheimer said. “I think that's really made the course great.”

The participants, many of whom have taken MOOCs before, commented on the benefit and uniqueness of having multiple voices and perspectives contribute to the course.

The course is designed to give participants information and training regarding the use of technology in a language learning classroom that they can use in their local contexts. One of the challenges is that with so many participants, the local context is often unknown. To be accessible to the widest audience possible, all the materials of the course are open educational resources.

“We also try to provide alternative options such as paper-based methods for those who may not be able to use all of the technology in their classroom,” said Becker.

Technology use is increasing across the world and this course is preparing educators to use it in a meaningful way.

“I think what's really exciting about it is this little office here at Iowa State University in Ames is touching 11,000 people across the world,” Hegelheimer said. “It's just mind-boggling to think that somebody in rural Indonesia, with very little access to technology, is using what technology they do have to access our course.”

The reaction from the students has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers in the course were able to connect with each other, many of them networking through the online discussions.

“Technology is a way of connecting people that we couldn’t do before. It's connecting through audio, through video and just having opportunities to use resources that are of high quality,” Hegelheimer said.