Massive Open Online Courses opened a new world of learning during lockdown

Tuesday 18 August, 2020

The verdict is in – the Massive Open Online Courses run by Pymble Ladies’ College were a huge success.

The optional courses for girls in Years 7 to 10 gave students the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics, including coding, robotics, food technology, photography, leadership, public speaking, problem solving, first aid, astronautical engineering and, even, how to design a new MOOC!

“Our MOOCs program opened up a whole new world of learning to our Middle and Upper School girls at a time when they felt like everything around them was shutting down,” said Pymble Principal, Dr Kate Hadwen, who ran a leadership course.

“This was a ‘challenge by choice’ opportunity for students who were inspired to use the lockdown period to extend their learning outside of Pymble Online, and we were thrilled to see so many of our girls choose to opt in,” she said.

Pymble’s Director of Innovative Learning Technologies, Mr Anthony England, said that the MOOCs could be done at any time.

“The students were in charge of what they learned, when they learned, and how they engaged with the course,” he said.

MOOCs use a wide range of learning tools, from videos and course notes to blog posts and discussion forums.

“We had the technology in place to support a broader range of interactions and our students and staff have been really willing to find new ways to engage with the technology,” Mr England said.

Visual Arts teacher and award-winning photographer, Mrs Nikki Easterbrook taught a four-week online photography course. Participants could use anything from a sophisticated SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, to their phone, to take photos in their surroundings and learn about new techniques.

“Online meetings let us swap images and ideas and the course covered some technical skills, as well as helping students understand the process of creating meaning in their work,” she said.

Another popular MOOC was the ‘Nourish and Flourish’ course, co-ordinated by Pymble’s Director of Boarding, Mrs Carolyn Burgess.

“Preparing healthy food is an important life skill and it’s also lots of fun,” she said.

A keen foodie, Mrs Burgess worked with Pymble’s Technological and Applied Studies Assistant, Mrs Kathryn Wiedemann, to deliver online cooking classes about nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas, tasty family meals and delicious treats.

The Robotics course – where girls used materials ranging from microchips to cardboard to build a machine to emulate a human hand – ran for the full term and was very popular.

In Dr Hadwen’s Leadership Development course, students learned how to identify their own ‘thinking preferences’ and how to better understand other people’s perspectives.

Pymble girls really embraced the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and delve into learning new skills, knowledge and ways of thinking and, as an added bonus, MOOCS gave us a whole new way to connect and interact with each other while we were teaching and learning online,” Dr Hadwen said.