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U Houston System Intros Free AP Exam Prep and Teacher Training MOOCs

The University of Houston System is launching its first three massive open online courses (MOOCs), two of them targeted to high school seniors preparing for advanced placements tests and one for K-12 teachers. The classes will be offered free through Coursera.

Starting in March, two U Houston professors will teach six-week courses, one on preparing for the AP calculus AB exam and the other on preparing for the AP statistics exam. Students need an Internet connection and about eight to 10 hours a week to do the work, including watching video lectures, taking quizzes, checking class forums and finishing "optional" standalone homework assignments. At the end of each course, students will take practice exams.

Last year, according to Jeffrey Morgan, associate provost of education innovation and technology at U Houston, 280,000 students took the AP Calculus AB exam and 150,000 took the AP statistics exam. About a quarter of the calculus test-takers made a grade of five, the highest score. Typically, he noted, those students who achieve that score get college credit for calculus from whatever school they attend. Morgan, who is also co-teaching the two AP courses, said he believes that students who pursue the MOOC could bring their capabilities up to that highest level.

Morgan said the long-term goals for offering the MOOCs is to reach "non-matriculated students interested in continuing their education, but who might not have access to campus resources." Next year, he added, the university system intends to offer full-year courses in AP calculus and AP statistics through Coursera.

The course intended for teachers, "Applying Principles of Behavior in the K-12 Classroom," starts in April and will last four weeks. It requires about two to four hours of work per week. According to the description, participants will learn "practical skills" for assessing "challenging behavior" in the classroom and creating "effective interventions." The class will also cover how to conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA). Educators in Texas may receive continuing professional education credit for successful participation.

Shortly, U Houston will also introduce two other classes on the Coursera platform that may have broader appeal: "A Brief History of Human Space Flight" and "Ethics in Science." Future courses already in development cover educational uses of digital storytelling, new technology tools for education, and programming of mobile devices.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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