CenUSA Bioenergy to Launch MOOC

Amy Kohmetscher
Newsletter Issue: 
March 2016

Laptop on desk with coffee, lamp, and plant
Photo: Jake Miller

This spring, CenUSA Bioenergy will be launching its first MOOC, or massive open online course, available to anyone with an internet connection. The course will supplement CenUSA’s library of educational materials, videos, research articles and lessons already created to educate students and the interested public. Dr. Deana Namuth-Covert, Director of Online Education and Outreach at Ohio State, has been assisting the CenUSA education and extension team to organize and release the new MOOC.

“In many ways, I feel like MOOCs are doing what we’ve been doing in extension programs all along in the land grant system - providing information to help people improve their businesses, grow their careers, manage their household finances, learn new parenting skills, etc. MOOCs harness electronic tools to package curriculum and make it available to literally anyone in the world, as long as they have access to the internet,” said Namuth-Covert.

Topics covered in the course will include an introduction to perennial grasses as a feedstock, perennial grass growth and development, establishment of perennial grass stands, stand management, and biochar as a co-product. Learners will discover these topics in a self-paced, self-directed manner through the use of videos, extension articles, lessons, and quizzes. The course will not have a specific timeline or formal instructor.

The MOOC will use a ready-to-learn approach, enabling learners who are new to the topic, the chance to progress through "packaged" curriculum content and achieve mastery of the topic. As Boy Scout and Girl Scouts have used physical badges to recognize achievement, participants in the CenUSA MOOC will be able to earn “digital badges” for completing each of the topic modules and for the entire course. These earned badges may be helpful for those seeking professional development or training.

“What is fascinating about coupling the CenUSA curriculum with a learning object repository, something like eXtension, is that the stand alone materials can also be used by someone interested in just a single piece... In this way, having both the stand alone materials, as well as a packaged MOOC will provide for a greater impact of the taxpayer's investment,” said Namuth-Covert.

In addition to the curriculum learning packages, the MOOC will provide a venue for open discussion of bioenergy topics, and allow for assessment of learning. Leveraging the advantages of a packaged curriculum will advance the mission of both the CenUSA education and extension teams to provide science-based knowledge through shared bioenergy curriculum and informal outreach programs.

Amy Kohmetscher will act as the course coordinator, directing content questions to experts, and assisting participants with any technical issues that arise during the course. For more information regarding the MOOC please contact Dr. Deana Namuth-Covert at namuth-covert.1@osu.edu