Sramana Mitra: Are you developing a curriculum that you’re offering for free to various schools and universities?
Mike Pellerin: Currently, we offer three courses. These include courses on data networking fundamentals, wireless LAN fundamentals, and data center basics. We will soon be releasing a course on security concepts. Each course length ranges from six to thirteen modules. Each module is no more than 28-35 minutes because the attention span for something like this can be shared or restricted. I cannot watch a 1-hour video and connect without doing something else. I’m sure students cannot either.
To reinforce that information, we use Twitter. This provides not only student-tracking but also student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction. Amazingly, a lot of our students that I have interacted with had sent their first ever tweet to me. I feel honored to know that I have now exposed them to tweeting. Unfortunately there’s a negative side to Twitter, but it’s an honor to be part of an organization that is promoting open learning for students globally and to be able to take advantage of the material that we have built.
Sramana Mitra: What is the usage model that you are expecting on these three or four courses that you put together and are continuing to put together? Would there be some professors who are on position or could this be a complete self-learning environment?
Mike Pellerin: As of now, it’s open. I was approached by a university and they would like to build a new course. They were ecstatic to work with us and are willing to give us a formal reference from the educational world to our institution. Getting references from people in the business world is much easier than in the academic world, which has significantly stricter rules.
Sramana Mitra: There’s a lot of insecurity and defensiveness in the educational institutions. It is true that if the school moves extraordinarily fast like developing curriculum and mastering enough material to be able to teach a course in one of the cutting edge technologies, the demand of networking might not necessarily catch up.
Mike Pellerin: No, it might not.
Sramana Mitra: Global collaboration between people in the industries who are closest to these changes, developments, and new technologies are in the best position not only knowledge-wise but also financially to be able to develop material that can then be rolled out broadly into these educational institutions. Is that a healthy trend? However, I imagine that this is not going to be an easy sale to the university because there’s a lot of insecurity in the people who have a job in teaching these courses.
Mike Pellerin: I attended Educause last year in California and met a lot of members of the academic world. I realized there is a lot of hesitation about these courses. There’s a five or six year residence and you are a tenure. People that have definitely achieved that tenure have difficulty in keeping up with evolving trends and technology. There’s a whole study around open education resources where a lot of information is available in various formats.
Unfortunately, a lot of institutions are still not open to taking advantage of this. This is frustrating sometimes because it happens at the cost of a student’s growth and success. But one thing that we’ve done is to try and help span our reach. We conducted a poll of the MOOC information yesterday. And we haven’t lost any students. So far, we have about 1500 unique students and we’ve done very little advertising for them. It’s been only through social media. The amazing part is that we have 45 different countries participating in it.
Sramana Mitra: Okay.
Mike Pellerin: About 60% of the students using our MOOC material come from Mexico. We have therefore settings to automatically detect the student’s browser settings and direct accordingly to the English or the local Spanish version. All this is behind the scenes. They can actually hear technology information in their local language.