UConn’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is launching an initiative called – noncredit.learning.uconn.edu - to kick-off noncredit program offerings – Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) and two pathways of closed enrollment courses for professional education and workforce development.
This noncredit learning initiative was created to provide professional education and workforce development solutions that support the university’s mission as a Research 1 Land Grant University, working in partnership with leadership and faculty in all of UConn’s schools and colleges.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) are usually noncredit courses accessible by a global audience. These open enrollment courses will be offered with UConn’s partner, FutureLearn, a UK based social learning platform that fosters learner interaction and engagement through learner discussion, interaction and comments. Partnering with FutureLearn provides UConn an opportunity to showcase faculty and research projects to a broad audience to build UConn’s global presence and gain recognition of UConn’s expert faculty and cutting-edge research. Additionally, in delivering MOOCS at no cost, or for a nominal fee to gain a certificate of completion or a micro-credential showing mastery in a specific area, UConn joins peer and aspirant universities that also offer MOOCS.
The second component of the non-credit initiative is delivery of closed enrollment short courses targeted to specific audiences.
Closed enrollment courses will meet the need for professional and workforce development continual learning. These programs will be developed through extensive collaboration between CETL and the colleges and their faculty, to create high quality courses in niche areas aligned to the university’s capabilities, and the needs of industry, business and the community. This will require building and developing relationships with business and industry to support their workforce development needs.
The goals of UConn non-credit offerings is to:
- Develop a strong global niche and increase global brand awareness
- Increase the potential for faculty to generate greater research funding by showcasing their work to a wider audience
- Engage with an international audience that may look to UConn for other online or on campus opportunities
- Create a pipeline of new learner audiences to include business, industry and regional government agencies for workforce development
- Support the broader university commitment of outreach at a regional and statewide level
- Provide opportunity for the university and the colleges to deliver on the mission of scholarly outreach to disseminate knowledge and learning to the university community and beyond
- Provide faculty an opportunity to showcase and promote their research and creativity
- Gain recognition of UConn faculty expertise across industries
- Develop new relationships with other universities to create possible partnerships on course development
Credit vs. Non-Credit
There are recognizable differences between credit and non-credit courses. Typically, course duration for a noncredit course is shorter than a credit course. Research shows the most successful open enrollment noncredit course is about 4 weeks which helps ensure learner motivation, engagement and completion. When presenting course content, keep it straightforward, simple and easy to understand. Additionally resources and links can be provided to support the learner who is interested in delving deeper into the material.
For closed enrollment courses, the duration may be longer, dependent if there are a series of courses as part of a larger program awarding a certificate of completion or micro-credential. Usually non-facilitated, noncredit courses are self-directed, learners read course materials, complete assessments, and work virtually with other learners through online discussions. Sometimes a non-credit course may have support from a teaching assistant who monitors discussions and can answer questions. Non-credit courses typically require a learner commitment of ~3-5 hours per week to remain engaged over a period of 4-6 weeks, dependent on course content and delivery modalities.
FutureLearn’s design approach is built on a social learning pedagogy. It incorporates a storytelling approach, using videos, articles, case studies and media to support conversation within each course. Learners are encouraged to add comments, insights, or questions directly in the content, promoting dialog between learners. This approach increases learner engagement and interaction. On average, 43% of learners who start a course and actively participate make a comment.
FutureLearn has completed extensive research on their learner base, identifying 3 distinct learner cluster profiles:
- Work and Study—learners motivated to enhance career prospects
- Personal Life—learners motivated to affect/address a problem in their life
- Leisure—learners motivated by the love of learning, curiosity, and interest in a hobby or community activity
These learner profiles have been further separated into 7 archetypes - Advancers, Explorers, Preparers, Fixers, Flourishers, Hobbyists, and Vitalisers. Additional information can be found here:
These attribute-based profiles are one factor used to determine level of interest and demand in potential course content areas. The other key factor is FutureLearn’s existing course offerings and how new courses in similar areas can provide new insights and differentiate themselves. The initial development plan of the Office of Workforce Solutions and Professional Education is to build 2-3 courses in the first year and then 4-5 per year thereafter, with unlimited course reruns following initial course development and launch.
Closed enrollment non-credit courses are targeted to a specific group of learners, providing post baccalaureate opportunities to enhance job performance or support career development without completing a graduate degree. In some instances, these courses offer continuing education credits, certificate of completion, or may be credit bearing for post baccalaureate work.
The two areas of closed enrollment courses are professional education and workforce development. Professional education provides continual learning to individuals interested in maintaining their knowledge or skills or gaining certification in areas related to their career. These programs will target the continual education needs of teachers, nurses, engineers and pharmacists, among others. The area of workforce development will work directly with businesses, industry and government, to identify areas of need or skill gaps by completing a learning needs analysis and developing courses or programs to support employee development and reskilling or upskilling.
These closed enrollment courses will be developed through collaboration between CETL and the colleges and their faculty, to create high quality noncredit online courses in niche areas aligned to the university’s capabilities, and the needs of professionals, industry, business and the community.
Closed enrollment courses will reside on Blackboard, using the front-end add-on, Genius, that will allow learners to search, enroll, and pay to register for a course, without a NetID. Courses will be developed using Blackboard Original or Blackboard Ultra.
A Centralized Support Team
A new office in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) has been established -- the Office of Continuing and Professional Education -- to oversee, coordinate, design and deliver open and closed enrollment non-credit program offerings. This office will create a standardized approach of non-credit course development, following best practices in course design to meet the needs of adult learners, such as course duration, content presentation, learner interaction, learning reinforcement through knowledge checks and assessments, and supplemental resources for additional learning and information.
The Office of Continuing and Professional Education will provide:
- Agility and responsiveness in developing and delivering noncredit programs to meet the needs of an evolving learning audience
- Support the development of new programs that provide diversity in learning options, opportunities and modalities
- A more intentional, uniform and targeted approach toward workforce development and professional education
- A recognizable UConn brand that will support new program opportunities in a newly identified arena through a defined strategy
The Office of Continuing and Professional Education will become the singular location -- replacing the Office of the President and the Office of the Academic Provost -- to vet requests from business and industry for consulting needs or training programs, and to determine alignment to faculty expertise and university interests. Additionally, this office will be the coordinating arm to develop workface development programs in collaboration with other area colleges, universities, industry and government.
Support Documentation and Standardization
The following documents will support faculty in non-credit course development and learning modalities that can be integrated into courses to support and reinforce learning outcomes.
- Intake Check List – identify course content, type of course – open or closed - level of content readiness, instructor availability for development, projected course delivery date,
- Development Guide – what is online learning, what type of content is suitable to an online environment, designing a hybrid course, standards of quality, a description of types of learning modalities and what content is suitable for which modality – i.e., video, podcast, blog, resource page, app, eLearning
Quality Standards of Online Non-credit Courses
Using the CPE Rubric based on Quality Matters, all noncredit course development should consider each of the following areas and include them in courses as dictated by course content and learner needs.
The eight general standards to include in a noncredit course are:
- Course Overview and Introduction
- Learning Objectives (Competencies)
- Assessment and Measurement to reinforce the learning and for self-evaluation on learning progress
- Instructional Materials that support learner achievement of learning objectives with the inclusion of various modalities in content presentation to support learning
- Course Activities and Learner Interaction to engage the learner and promote content understanding toward a goal of reaching expected learning outcomes
- Course Technology that provides ease of accessibility and encourages learner engagement through active learning
- Learner Support for technical assistance
- Accessibility and Usability by providing alternative opportunities for diverse learners to access course materials and ensuring ease of use through course design and technology
To ensure learner engagement and learner achievement of stated learning goals, the best course design is a multi-media approach. Adult learners learn best through interactivity, emotional interest, and setting context of how content relates to them.
When developing an online noncredit course, the focus should be sharing ideas and information in different ways that support learners to be self-directed in their learning and to encourage exploration of content. This means presenting content through brief summaries, basic simulations when appropriate, relevant articles, and videos. The key is to ensure variety of content delivery to gain learner attention, hold their interest, and promote the learning process.