Massive Open Online Courses Aim to Increase Educators’ Confidence in Energy Literacy

[IMAGE]F.R.E.E. bannerScience, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers in Iowa would often like to include energy concepts and local issues concerning energy in their classrooms but don’t know where to start. To help them meet their goals, Energy Education Outreach Director at the University of Northern Iowa, Pat Higby, has developed two new open online courses.  Fabulous Resources for Energy Education (F.R.E.E.), a program through the University of Northern Iowa, is sponsoring the courses.

“It is very difficult to get teachers willing to give up two weeks during the summer to attend workshops” Higby said. She sees these courses as a way to meet teachers’ needs without requiring the travel, time, and hassels of an in-person professional development workshop. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are developed as a way to facilitate open participation learning environments that are entirely online and accessible.

View a sample video of the courses.

All educators can take the MOOC courses for free or Iowa residents can enroll for one UNI continuing education graduate credit for $100 per course. Each course includes 15 instructor video hours and 30 activity and assignment hours.

After achieving a passing grade, all participants will receive a certificate of completion and invitation to an “Energy Expedition,” a guided field trip that lets participants experience the material they studied.  The reduced credit cost and field trips are made possible by support from Iowa NSF EPSCoR grant funding.

Since this is the first year the courses have been offered, Higby expects to treat them as a pilot – redesigning and changing the curriculum when the opportunity arises. She expects the class size to be smaller this spring than it will be in the future, which will also offer some benefits to students.

“I designed the on-line classes to cover the same materials as the in-person workshops,” Higby said. “They still require participants to do hands-on activities, but with the MOOC they share their projects with photos/videos on our website or Facebook page. They can also interact with me and other participants during our Digital Office Hours.  I will use ZOOM with my computer’s camera and microphone to do show and tell and answer questions. If they complete the course, I’ll send them an invitation to an Energy Expedition.  We’ll tour energy-related sites such as a wind turbine or nuclear power plant and get to know each other face-to-face!”

“UNI Energy Basics” is a course designed for the classroom teacher that will help them define energy in a way K-12 students will understand, compare and contrast the scientific method of inquiry with engineering design processes, and explore how the flow of energy from the sun to the Earth influences our climate. The course will be available from Feb. 4-May 2, 2015, but students must register by April 1.

“UNI Solar Energy” is a course based around solar projects. Participants will use the engineering design process to learn how to build a model solar car and use it to answer questions about balance, circuits, and solar cells. They will explore changes in the sun’s daily path with a pinhole solargraph, and learn how to add solar energy to their home or school. The course will be available from March 2-May 2, 2015, but students must register by April 1, 2015.

For more information, see the MOOC flyer (PDF)