Last summer we shared video interviews from the University of California at Davis describing their efforts to personalize the most impersonal of learning experiences – the large lecture introductory course. ((Disclosure: Our e-Literate TV series of video case studies and explainer videos is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)) The organizing idea there is to apply active learning principles such as the flipped classroom, leveraging adaptive courseware from the Online Learning Initiative (OLI) out of Carnegie Mellon University. More specifically, the lecture was redesigned to bring students “out of the back row”, and the lab sections were flipped using OLI. Many efforts to personalize learning experiences end up increasing the amount of asynchronous pre-classroom time spent with courseware of some sort.

At the University of Texas at Austin, the College of Liberal Arts is taking a different approach and focusing on the synchronous class time. The core of the course redesigns since 2013 centers on live lecture sessions created in a studio setting, with a small audience of students, streaming live to very large classes that can exceed 1,000 students each. They have named the approach Synchronous Massive Online Courses, or SMOCs. To get a sense of the problem UT Austin is trying to solve and why they have chosen the SMOC approach, watch this episode.


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