Countdown begins for KTH's first MOOC

Published Apr 15, 2016

Christer Fuglesang made history as Sweden's first astronaut to fly into space, so it's perhaps appropriate that he becomes the first professor at KTH to lead a massive open online course (MOOC).

KTH's MOOCs make their premier on April 18 with Fuglesang's open online course, Human Spaceflight - An Introduction.

"It has been really exciting working with this. It presents a teaching challenge," says Fuglesang, whose 2006 flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery placed him in the history books. He now heads the KTH Space Center.

MOOCs are conducted over the web, via computer. KTH's first course is available to students all over the world through KTH's partnership with the edX global education platform. The class provides an historical overview of manned spaceflight and, among other things, covers the political, economical and community perspective of human space travel.

Students in about 100 countries are enrolled in Human Spaceflight. Interaction between the students and teaching team (Fuglesang has three teacher assistants in this case) is open and spontaneous, but done through active forums related to each lesson.

"It feels a little unfamiliar at first," Fuglesang says. "I read from a prompter so I can't be very spontaneous, and the concentration on that makes me sound a little more severe than usual. But it's very fascinating to think that it goes out globally. That's appropriate considering the subject."

After every lecture the course participants get test questions; at the end of the course there is a digital discussion forum. Fuglesang will also send out a weekly email to the class.

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"The format, which is so concentrated, is intended so that the MOOC generates a lot of knowledge per unit of time. It is an outstanding complement to classical education," he says. "It's always fun to be the one who goes first, and of course it's an honour for me to do the first MOOC at KTH."

In January KTH joined many other world-leading universities, such as MIT and Harvard, as a new member of the edX global platform, which includes about 80 seats of learning around the world as members, and about 6 million registered users.

"It's fantastic that we're moving ahead with MOOCs," says KTH Deputy President Eva Malmström Jonsson. "The MOOCs are a part of KTH's drive to further strengthen and complement the campus-situated education with digital learning environments."

"We hope for a big response and thereby increase our global visibility and awareness of KTH's research and education."

KTH will do 10 MOOCs in the coming three years.

Jill Klackenberg

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