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MOOC on critical thinking attracting thousands of enrolments

MOOC on critical thinking attracting thousands of enrolments

How do we know when we’re making the right decision? And what if it’s not the most rational one? Though we hate to admit it, most of us are not very good at critical and logical thinking.

Now a University of Auckland MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is starting next month to help people learn these skills.

Called Logical and Critical Thinking, the MOOC was developed by Associate Professor Tim Dare and Dr Patrick Girard of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts, and FutureLearn. Tim and Patrick initially set out to develop an online version of Philosophy’s stage one Critical Thinking paper to cope with increasing student numbers. That course enrols up to 1000 students a semester. The MOOC has already exceeded this enrolment tenfold and is already nearing 13,000.

It is the first MOOC they’ve done but they have taken to the process with enthusiasm, even developed new personas for the MOOC, Tim becoming “Dr Critical”, and Patrick “Dr Logical”.

But lecturing for the MOOC was a lot different than preparing to deliver a typical university lecture.

They originally thought they could use their original lecture notes, but they soon realised that was not ideal.

“Simply filming a standard 55 minute lecture doesn't work. Online courses need to respond to the fact people will be taking them in a completely different environment. We aimed for brief videos – 5 minutes maximum – with supporting material and assessment,” Tim says.

The pair filmed the MOOC at various locations on the university’s city campus, but also across Auckland including The Planetarium, Mt Eden and Western Springs.

Patrick says Tim was “a natural” on camera, but the experience was new to him, and he appreciated the help of the team and Tim to get him through it.

“It’s not a medium I am used to,” he says, “but I certainly think it will be easier next time. Much of this was a learning experience for me.”

Tim and Patrick both say a lot of the credit should go to the University’s film and teaching units.

The eight-week MOOC will take participants through how to identify and avoid common thinking mistakes that lead to the formation of bad beliefs; recognise, reconstruct and evaluate arguments; use basic logical tools to analyse arguments; and apply those tools in areas including science, moral theories and law.

Next year, they will return to the original project, producing an online version of the University’s own critical thinking course, expanding the material to 12 weeks and adding assessment, examination and tutorial activities.

“We were driven in part by realising that many of our students already take our courses by watching the filmed versions the University produces. But those are just regular lectures which are not designed for online presentation. The MOOC will allow us to cater to those students much more effectively and professionally,” Tim says.

The MOOC starts on 28 September 2015.

For more information and to watch the MOOC trailer visit FutureLearn.


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