MOOCulus for Calculus Fun: An Interview with Tom Evans

By Jessica Knott
Associate Editor
Editor, Twitter/Facebook

nowthats160With all the news and debate surrounding MOOCs, I have been looking for examples of people breaking the mold. In this, the first installment of Now That’s What I Call MOOC (bear with me, we probably won’t get to installment 73 like the CDs), we visit with Tom Evans of Ohio State University, discussing MOOCulus, platforms, student response, and more.

What is MOOCulus?

MOOCulus is an online platform, developed at Ohio State, to provide students a place to go to practice Calculus problems. The key to learning Calculus is to do problems, tons of problems. Over and over and over and over…

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Our MOOC platform provider, Coursera, didn’t offer an engaging method for students to simply practice problems so we built MOOCulus to provide that opportunity for Calculus fun!

How was it developed and on what platform? Tell me a little bit about the tool itself and how students have responded to it.

Jim Fowler, Ohio State University

Jim Fowler, Ohio State University

MOOCulus was developed by Jim Fowler, a Math lecturer in our Math department at Ohio State. He and his team used Ruby on Rails to build the platform, which we host locally on campus. He initially used the Khan Academy as underlying framework to build the practice problems in MOOCulus and is working on branching out from that to build truly randomized practice problems that progress in difficulty as students master content. As they answer questions correctly, the progress bar moves to the right and turns green; as they miss questions, the progress bar begins to move to the left and turns red.

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It’s more than just answering correctly to determine level of understanding. We also take into consideration the amount of time taken on a problem, how many hints used, etc.

In our 15 week run of the Calculus One MOOC, we’ve seen a combined 10 years of human life devoted to answering Calculus problems on MOOCulus — with an amazing over 2 million correct answers submitted!

That’s a lot of data to gobble up!

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What are your thoughts on MOOCs in general? How did this affect your approach to this one?

Tom Evans, Ohio State University

Tom Evans, Ohio State University

I think that MOOCs are an amazing experiential learning space. Just think. Aside from being able to have your courses reach out and interact with global learners in pretty much every nation on earth — which is an amazing opportunity in and of itself for university brand promotion, content/message awareness, and overall being a good citizen for access to education to those not normally able to attend schools — how often can you test instructional materials, tools, assessments, surveys, discussion prompts, and more with an extremely large student body, many of whom are excited and motivated to learn and participate in the course and equally eager to give you feedback on how you can improve the course and love, absolutely love, engaging and playing around with learning tools?

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That plus the data we can gather about the student learning taking place and any integrated tools provides an invaluable opportunity to improve the learning experiences and opportunities in the courses taught on campus to enrolled tuition-paying students.

For example, since our Calculus One MOOC course ran (Jan-April 2013), we’ve expanded the course and are offering it on iTunes U.  This self-paced model allows the student to be the driver of their learning without the constraints of weekly deadlines or formalized assessments.

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We’ve also expanded the MOOCulus platform to allow for people to log in using their Google credentials.

More importantly, we are bringing the tools back home and are using this MOOCulus platform as a learning tool for students taking Calculus at Ohio State. It will be promoted for use in several sections this coming fall. However, any student, anywhere, can access MOOCulus, anytime, by logging into the site using their Google ID.

Branching off of and built from the MOOCulus framework, is WExMOOC, our online peer reviewing platform within built in real-time writing analytics. We piloted it in our Writing II MOOC and are now bringing that platform into the learning experiences of a few second-level writing courses at Ohio State in spring 2014. I’d go more into WExMOOC, but I’ll save it for another interview! :)

And that brings me to the end of this interview!  High fives all around!

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3 Responses

  1. […] With all the news and debate surrounding MOOCs, I have been looking for examples of people breaking the mold. In this, the first installment of Now That’s What I Call MOOC (bear with me, we probably won’t get to installment 73 like the CDs), we visit with Tom Evans of Ohio State University, discussing MOOCulus, platforms, student response, and more.  […]

  2. […] By Jessica Knott Associate Editor Editor, Twitter/Facebook With all the news and debate surrounding MOOCs, I have been looking for examples of people breaking the mold. In this, the first installme…  […]

  3. […] MOOCulus for Calculus Fun: An Interview with Tom Evans … https://etcjournal.com/MOOCulus is an online platform, developed at Ohio State, to provide students a place to go to practice Calculus problems. The key to learning Calculus is to do problems, tons of problems. Over and over and over and over… […]

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