L’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR), with just over 14,000 students, is one of the ten universities in the Université du Québec system.
UQTR was one of the first Francophone universities in Canada to offer MOOCs. This is an initiative of professors, later supported by the senior administration. MOOCs are seen as contributing to the university’s mandate of widening access to post-secondary education. With over 100 online courses for credit, UQTR already has prior experience in online teaching.
To date, UQTR offered two MOOCs, a course on personal finance first offered in the spring of 2015, and a course on the importance of children’s play first offered in autumn of 2015.
Each MOOC is made up of five modules offered over a five-week period. UQTR designed in its own platform for the MOOCs.
The first MOOC was Financial and Tax Literacy for All (La Littératie Financière et Fiscale Ouverte à Tous), developed and offered in 2015, and every year since, by Professors Marc Bachand and Nicolas Boivin at UQTR’s Department of Accounting.
Our MOOC aims to bring together in the same collaborative community all those who wish to acquire skills to increase their capacity to make the right decisions regarding personal finance and taxation.
The Finance course has readings in the form of PDFs and video modules that students download over the Internet. The video modules are approximately 7-8 minutes in length.
Figure 1: A screen shot from a video in the Personal Finance MOOC.
There is also a course wiki where participants can post questions, comments, answers and exchange information.
Figure 2: The Personal Finance wiki
There are also questions set by the instructors to which participants can respond. The questions are multiple-choice. If participants achieve at least 75% correct answers over the four initial tests and they obtain at least 60% in the final test in the fifth week, they are awarded a certificate. The answers to the questions are automatically graded and saved, unless the participant chooses the option not to have the scores retained and counted towards a certificate. The instructors and a graduate student provide written feedback on the answers.
The second MOOC is Play for Early Childhood Education (Jouer pour Apprendre en Petite Enfance), developed and offered in 2015, and every year since, by Mathieu Point, Professor of Education, and Claude Dugas, Professor of Human Kinetics:
You will discover the play world of the preschool child. Each child is unique, has an individual potential and will learn differently from his or her peers. The common characteristic of each child's development is that it is built through play, whether it is free, risky, outdoors, solitary, or with a group.
The MOOC is targeted at two audiences:
- The general public: anyone wishing to discover or rediscover the world of early childhood play; and
Teachers or early childhood educators who wishes to enrich their knowledge about play and learning.
Participants learn through a few readings and videos, but also through the exchanges that take place in the discussion forum. A personalized achievement certificate is available for learners who meet the established threshold of success.
The videos use a mix of short (7-8 minute) illustrated lectures, ‘open source’ YouTube videos from agencies such as UNESCO, and videos specifically created for the MOOC showing specific examples of different kinds of children’s play and games.
Figure 3: Screen shot from a UQTR video clip of outdoor play
As with the Personal Finance MOOC, there are quizzes that can be taken towards a certificate of completion, and a wiki area for participant discussion and questions.
Both MOOCs are being re-offered in 2017.
Benefits and outcomes
The MOOCs are considered to be very successful at UQTR. In 2015, over 6,000 Francophones enrolled in the Personal Finance MOOC from 20 different countries, and in 2016, over 4,500 participated in the Play MOOC. Over 31% in 2015 and 21% in 2016 (over 25% for the Personal Finance MOOC) went on to get certificates of participation. In the Play MOOC, over 80% of the participants were female. The instructors participating in the Finance MOOCs have since been invited to participate in TV network programs, and are now regularly interviewed by journalists for advice on financial and tax planning.
The instructors consider the following reasons for the high completion rates for these MOOCs:
- Choice of topics: both topics are ones that have a wide appeal to the general public;
Simplicity of content: a great effort was made in both MOOCs to limit and simplify the amount of information provided, for instance using short videos of less than 10 minutes, and limiting content to the key issues; the courses were no longer than five weeks;
High quality media: well-illustrated lectures with polished presenters (the instructors) and in the case of the Play MOOC, well-produced video illustrating specific aspects of children’s play;
The MOOCs came from a well-respected university, ensuring independent and objective content and credibility;
The university chose the professors carefully for the MOOCs, to ensure they were good presenters and content experts; and
The presenters worked with the university’s instructional design team who provided pedagogical, technical and media production support.
In the case of the Play MOOC, the content is now also used in credit courses offered by the university.
Challenges and Enhancements
The MOOCs are not cheap to produce, each averaging around $75,000 in development costs. The university provided no extra time or financial benefits to the instructors, so they were extra work for the faculty.
There are no plans currently to do further MOOCs, although the current MOOCs will continue at least into 2017.
UQTR demonstrated that even a relatively small university can deliver successful MOOCs with high enrolments and completion rates, using good design and a careful choice of topics.
Department of Education
L’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Department of Human Kinetics
L’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières