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CASTL Researchers Launch MOOC for Early Childhood Educators


Yesterday marked the start of the Early Childhood Interactions: Supporting Young Children’s Development Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, designed by a team of faculty and staff from the Curry School of Education’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). This offering follows a successful three-year pilot in which Principal Investigator and Associate Director of CASTL, Bridget Hamre, and a group of researchers developed and tested an online version of an in-person course created by the National Center for Research in Early Childhood Education (NCRECE).

“We wanted to expand on the success of the NCRECE course, which improved the quality of participating teachers’ interactions with students, by enabling a broader audience to take advantage of this professional learning experience,” Hamre said.

The MOOC’s enrollment provides evidence of its ability to reach a professionally and geographically diverse group of learners – over 21,000 have signed up for the month-long course, with participants ranging from veteran teachers, prospective educators, medical students, and interested parents and representing more than 100 different countries.

Provided through Coursera, an education technology company specializing in massive open online courses and leader in reinventing online education, students will be able to watch videos of lectures, participate in discussion boards, access a library of resources, and test their knowledge with quizzes over the course of four weeks. As of yesterday afternoon, enrollees were already engaged with the materials and each other – many participants shared their thoughts about the first readings with others, fostering professional networks that span countries.

Building a successful online course poses unique challenges and requires more than good content to elicit student participation.  Sarah Lydic, CASTL Instructional Design/Multimedia Developer, led efforts to ensure that lessons were both engaging and of high quality. “Designing a course with pioneers in both online education and early childhood education is an incredibly exciting and humbling opportunity. I’m already inspired by our learners’ curiosity and thirst for knowledge. We can only begin to imagine the impact this course will have on teachers and the children in their classrooms,” Lydic said of her experience on the project.

The ECI team hopes to offer the course through the University of Virginia for credit this spring. If you are interested in signing up for the class next semester, please visit the Effective Classroom Interactions Courses site to join the mailing list. If you would like to view the course description and syllabus, visit its site on Coursera.

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