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Last modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

IU School of Education professor Bonk to deliver free online course on online teaching

April 24, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Curt Bonk, professor of instructional systems technology at the Indiana University School of Education, will deliver a five-week, free and open Internet course about teaching online for a company that specializes in organizing online courses.

Curt Bonk

Instructional systems technology professor Curt Bonk at Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland, the spot where Guglielmo Marconi received the first wireless message from England. Bonk says that was the first instance of technology opening the world.

Print-Quality Photo

CourseSites, a site operated by educational software company Blackboard, is unveiling what it calls its "Open Course Series" by having Bonk lead a session titled "Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success" on May 2, with four other sessions at 4 p.m. EDT each Wednesday through May 30. Free online registration is now open for the "massive open online course," or MOOC. Before registration opened, nearly a thousand people had already indicated interest in the course.

The project is a natural for Bonk, who wrote a recent book titled "The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education," published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley. The book documents the many ways in which he says various technological innovations have made it possible so that "anyone can learn anything from anyone else at any time."

"I do smile quite a bit as some of the ideas in the 'World Is Open' book come to life all around me," Bonk said. "It is exactly the type of free and open global educational experience that I was spotlighting in the book. I expect to learn a ton from those enrolled in the course and hope that they learn a couple of useful or interesting ideas from me as well."

Bonk said Blackboard expects thousands of online instructors from around the globe to register for the course based on the early response. He said the course will be set up to show potential ways of teaching while also answering questions participants might have about their own online experiences.

"This course will start with low-risk, low-time activities but also include some activities and ideas at the higher end of the risk, time and cost," Bonk said. The first session will offer instructional frameworks designed to help motivate and retain online students, while the second one will help them adapt for different learning styles and assist in problem-solving skills. Bonk also plans to give a session on critical and creative thinking as well as collaborative learning through online instruction.

The MOOC phenomenon is something Bonk is familiar with not just because of his research interests, but because of his teaching. Bonk was a panel participant in a session last summer in a course presented by the University of Illinois at Springfield that had 2,700 students across the world. But he noted that some MOOCs have attracted many more thousands.

"There was a course at Stanford this past fall with over 160,000 people taught by two instructors," he said. The success prompted one of the faculty members behind the course to start a new company specializing in MOOCs.

Such happenings provide further evidence of the open learning environment Bonk writes about in "The World Is Open." That work was inspired by the best-selling work of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "The World Is Flat," which listed 10 "flatteners" leading to economic globalization. Bonk similarly laid out a list of 10 "openers" to the availability of education across the Web. Now his own work will contribute further to that openness.

"I'm excited about teaching the open course," Bonk said, "and looking forward to collaborating with others on ways we can leverage technology in teaching and promote a more learner-centered approach to instruction."