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Northwestern Launches New Moocs In Health Care, Business

Two massive open online courses debut in spring 2015, join growing curriculum

  • First Feinberg School of Medicine MOOC helps chart a path to health care jobs
  • Kellogg School of Management MOOC offers insights into business operations
  • Spring MOOCs also include three Northwestern courses being offered again
  • Northwestern also is offering its first MOOC specialization program this spring

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University is unveiling two new massive open online courses (MOOCs) this spring, one to help young people find their way into the health care workplace and another to help students understand how to shape business operations for maximum success.

The two new courses -- created by professors from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the Kellogg School of Management, respectively -- join a growing curriculum of MOOCs at the University, including three previously successful MOOCs that are being offered again this spring. They showcase Northwestern’s diverse curricular strengths.

Since first launching the popular online courses in 2013 on the Coursera platform, which offers courses that are free and open to anyone, anywhere, Northwestern has created almost a dozen MOOCs on topics ranging from media, journalism and engineering to law, music and content strategy.

The University also is offering its first MOOC specialization on the Coursera platform: two courses and a final project in content strategy for professionals in organizations.

The course is taught by two Kellogg professors: Gad Allon, professor of managerial economics and decision sciences, and Jan A. Van Mieghem, Harold L. Stuart Professor of Managerial Economics and professor of operations management.

Students will study how to build and evaluate the “operating system” of a firm to maximize value, according to the course website, which “involves tailoring the firm’s operational competencies, assets and processes to a specific business strategy.”

  • On April 13, Northwestern will launch the Feinberg School’s first MOOC, Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Health Care, which aims to help high school students, recent graduates and those considering career transitions explore health care career options and learn strategies for entry into the health care workforce and health related fields.

Taught by Feinberg Dr. Melissa A. Simon, George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology and vice chair of clinical research, the course will share “strategies and secrets” for finding and getting job opportunities in medicine and health care.

“This course will introduce you to health care professions, help you map a path toward a health career and impart skills relevant for any career,” according to the course website. Those skills include “articulating your personal story, resume and cover letter writing, job search, interviewing, professional networking and professional communications.”

The course features more than 50 different guests and lecturers, including faculty from Feinberg; Kellogg; the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications; the School of Professional Studies; Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication. It also includes staff from Northwestern Career Advancement, the Northwestern provost and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital president. Health professionals filmed for video segments are from institutions around the Chicago area and across the United States.

Simon observed that this is the first MOOC with the goal of improving diversity in the health care workforce.

“We aim to plant the seed of possibility and lay the ground work for underrepresented and nontraditional students -- and others who are interested in a career change -- to translate their life experiences and talent into marketable skills relevant to the health care workforce,” she said.

On a personal note, Simon added, “I’m a first-generation college student, and I grew up in the bottom 1 percent in Detroit. These struggles and trajectory toward a career in medicine directly impacted and informed my decision to create this MOOC from scratch.”

In addition to the two new MOOCs and the specialization program being offered, the three previously successful MOOCs will be offered again this spring, all of them starting March 30. They are:

  • Digital Image Processing -- Students learn the basic principles and tools used to process images and videos and how to apply them in solving practical problems of commercial and scientific interests. Digital image and video processing continues to enable the multimedia technology revolution we are experiencing today.
  • Life Cycle Assessment -- This course answers the question: “How green is that product?” Students learn the basics of the life-cycle assessment (LCA) method for holistic environmental analysis of products, technologies and systems. LCA sheds light on the environmental implications of the consumption and behavioral choices we all make on a daily basis.
  • Content Strategy (part of a specialization) -- This MOOC is for professionals at all levels of a for-profit, nonprofit, volunteer or government organization who want to significantly improve their abilities to understand audiences and develop strategic words, pictures, graphics and videos to convey their organization’s most important goals.

Northwestern MOOCs are produced and supported by a team of experts at the University with skills ranging from training in advanced learning and knowledge of Internet technology to online instruction expertise developed by the School of Professional Studies and support services provided by Northwestern University Library.

The group works through the Coordinated Service Center (CSC), which was created by the Office of the Provost to coordinate the respective talents and programs of traditional support units on campus. The goal of the CSC is to provide a centralized point of contact and consultation for faculty members involved in the process of creating, developing and implementing their MOOCs.

“The CSC offers strategic guidance regarding MOOC policy and process issues,” explains Jake Julia, associate vice president and associate provost of academic initiatives at Northwestern. He noted that the center, together with the University Faculty Distance Learning Workgroup, reviews and approves MOOCs prior to launch and provides opportunities for Northwestern Coursera instructors to meet as a cohort with the CSC to share ideas and experiences throughout the process.

“The CSC is also interested in evaluating learning outcomes and assessing the experiences of both Coursera students and instructors to better understand how these online tools and digital assets might be utilized to enhance the teaching and learning experience on campus,” Julia said.

The CSC provides a team of highly skilled individuals from the School of Professional Studies (SPS), NUIT Academic & Research Technologies, the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching and the library to support efforts to create MOOCs, apply innovative approaches to them and explore the pedagogical and course delivery options available through the Coursera platform.

Joel Shapiro, associate dean of academic programs for SPS, noted that the process of creating MOOCs at Northwestern has been “remarkably collaborative.” SPS has worked closely with NUIT, for example, to contribute design and technological expertise in the creation of the structure and technology of the classes.

NUIT has done the video work that goes into the teaching platform, while Searle has worked on design and assessment tools, Shapiro explained. The library has had an important role navigating copyright issues, and SPS has brought to bear knowledge on online course design after running five successful credit-bearing, online master’s degree programs.

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