April 09, 2015

How to Efficiently Get Started in Online Education


U.ExtremeNetworks.com: A MOOC Case Study


If you are facing pressure to move your courses online, it can be a challenge to know exactly where to begin. The task gets harder if you have constrained resources, limited budget, and a fixed schedule. Nonetheless, creating an online course, such as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), does not have to be a complicated process.

MikePellerinExtreme Networks’ Director of Technical Training Mike Pellerin knows first-hand about the pressures involved in setting up online classes. Last year he implemented a series of Extreme Networks MOOCs, focused on networking technology.  Working within a constrained resource budget, Pellerin was able to create a series of highly-successful, top-quality courses.

To get the MOOC off the ground, Mike pulled together the following major components as described in our Quick Guide To Creating an Online Course:

  • Content presentation and assessment system. This manages the delivery of the subject matter to the students and provides a means to assess how well the students are understanding, learning, and retaining the content.
  • Content storage and web hosting
  • Student online interaction
  • Student management

The Major Technology Components Supporting the Extreme Networks MOOC

For educational content presentation and assessment delivery, Mike used Brainshark, an application that was already in use at Extreme for internal training. Brainshark is easy to use, has integrated exam capabilities, and can export data for tracking purposes. It also includes a video recording platform that helps you upload PowerPoint and add graphics and voiceover.

Pellerin chose Amazon Web Services in the cloud for content storage. This choice has worked well due to the low cost and very high availability of AWS. It provides the capability of hosting redundant web servers supporting the Extreme Networks MOOC site.

For authentication and online student interaction, Pellerin considered using Facebook and LinkedIn, but in the end went with Twitter. The factors that drove this decision included ease of integration and the fact that a major portion of the customer base was already active on Twitter. Choosing an application that is available to users in all locations, and one with which they are familiar, is important. Mike wanted to be sure the students could easily login and use the same application to interact both with other students and with the instructors.

For managing students, tracking their progress, and scheduling classes, Pellerin used Salesforce.com, which was already licensed by Extreme Networks for customer relationship management. Student test results are easily exported from Brainshark into Salesforce.

Once the Extreme Networks MOOC was implemented and ready to go, Mike and his staff promoted it through social media, blogs, educational web sites, directories, course listings, and a press release. Since the MOOC is offered to students at no cost, this has been a way for Extreme Networks to give back to the community. It also provides insight into an important trend in one of Extreme Networks most significant markets – education.

Mike found that the MOOCs have provided a good avenue for feedback both on training content and style. Here are some of the early learnings from the project.

  • Be sure to keep each MOOC lesson concise. If the classes run more than 20-30 minutes, students may become disinterested.
  • Design the lessons to be more active than passive. It is difficult to learn in a passive environment with information simply being recited. Try to make the courses as active as possible to appeal to different learning styles.
  • Engage students by asking questions. Present content on a few slides and then ask a question about them to force students to pay attention.

Next Steps for the Extreme Networks MOOC: LinkedIn and Digital Badges

Getting the first MOOC up and running has been a learning experience for Mike and Extreme Networks. As the program moves forward, Mike plans to add Facebook, in addition to Twitter, as a means for authenticating the users, and will also tie it into LinkedIn communities. The Extreme Networks MOOC courses were aimed at both the students and IT professionals, groups that sometimes use different social media. LinkedIn provides a good avenue to reach the professional community. The company would like to add a capability to discern and collect information on the audience, such as whether they are high school students or professionals with 15 years of experience.

The concept of digital badges has developed and matured since the initial MOOC roll-out. In the future, Mike plans to award digital badges to those who successfully complete the courses.

About The Contributor:
Christen PalangeVertical Solutions Marketing Co-op

Christen is the Vertical Solutions Marketing Co-op at Extreme Networks. In this position she assists in the strategy and programs for K-12 and Higher Education. Currently, Christen is a student at the University of New Hampshire majoring in Business Administration.

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