How one college transformed a MOOC into a recruiting tool

Concurrent Session 1
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Brief Abstract

This panel from the University of Cincinnati will discuss how we designed a Targeted Open Online Course (TOOC) as a feeder into our Respiratory Therapy program, and how this course takes the concept of a MOOC in a different direction than what is typically thought of by the term. 


Carolyn Stoll holds a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Arts in English, both from Miami University of Ohio. For 18 years, she taught first year composition and technical writing at the University of Cincinnati. Prior to that, she taught middle school Language Arts. She has extensive experience teaching and developing learning content in all formats (online, hybrid, and face to face). She is a Quality Matters Certified Reviewer and workshop facilitator, and her research and pedagogical interests involve eLearning and teaching online, topics on which she has written articles and presented at both national and regional conferences. In 2010, Carolyn joined University of Cincinnati Information Technologies managing UCIT’s Instructional Design and Content unit. In 2012, she was hired by the College of Allied Health Sciences, where she is now a Senior Instructional Designer in the Center for Educational Technology and Instructional Support.
Dawn H. Clineman, MS is the Director of Online Instruction with UC Online. Dawn has worked with the University of Cincinnati since 2008 and has served the university in a number of roles with the primary focus of online learning administration, design, and instruction. She has a variety of eLearning experience. As a member of senior leadership of UC Online, Dawn works closely with programs and faculty developing and building their online programs and classes. She has designed, developed, and facilitated faculty workshops to enhance the understanding of the design process and the pedagogical approach required for successful online teaching and learning. She also manages an instructional design team within UC Online.Prior to working for UC, she consulted with universities across the nation and launched online programs. She supported faculty and administration in their curriculum development, their development of infrastructure, and enhancement of their business model. Dawn received her BS degree in Social Science from Florida Atlantic University and her MS degree in Conflict Resolution from Nova Southeastern University. Dawn is passionate about bringing quality education to the online environment and ensuring the student experience is strong.

Extended Abstract

Despite their early promise and hype, Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s, have never quite reached the glorious heights nor been the paradigm shifter many thought they would be when they first burst on the scene in 2008.  With completion rates hovering around 10% and no clear path to incorporate the MOOC model into traditional higher ed degree granting programs, MOOC’s have been a solution in search of a problem for most of the last decade.

Meanwhile, many fields, particularly in the health professions, have been seeing a gradual rise in entry level educational requirements. The field of respiratory therapy in particular is moving towards a baccalaureate degree as the minimum qualification for entry into the profession; consequently, there has been a plethora of online respiratory bachelor completion programs starting at institutions all over the country. However, over half of all of active respiratory practitioners are over the age of 40 and have little to no experience with online learning. 

To overcome this challenge and to better meet the needs of the profession, the online Respiratory Therapy program at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Allied Health Sciences has developed a Targeted Open Online Course, or TOOC.  Like other MOOC’s, this course is free, self-paced, and online. But unlike most MOOC’s, it’s targeted specifically towards working respiratory therapists and students currently enrolled in associate-level programs who might be interested in furthering their education and moving into advanced practice either within respiratory care or in an allied health profession. 

The course offers a unique online experience within five self-contained modules that allows practicing therapists and students of respiratory therapy to explore how the Affordable Care Act affects respiratory care, to understand the current clinical movement towards advanced practice, and to identify new market trends and opportunities in respiratory care.

The goal of the course is to provide students with the ability to experience an online course with no monetary commitment or additional obligations, and to incentivize and provide a pathway to enrollment for those who become interested in pursuing their baccalaureate degree, hopefully at the University of Cincinnati.  Students who complete the course and enroll in UC’s Respiratory Therapy program earn 5 credit hours towards their degree at a substantially reduced rate.  It’s also hoped that the success of this course will lead to other programs within the college and possibly the university incorporating this innovative course delivery method.

This panel discussion will include the Program Director who envisioned the course and the two instructional designers who figured out how to overcome the unique challenges of the course, including:

  • Building a course in an LMS that was free but would also be familiar once students enroll at UC.
  • Targeting an open course to only respiratory therapists.
  • Making the course rigorous, but self-paced and unfacilitated
  • Working outside the bounds of the traditional semester calendar so students can join anytime and complete at their own pace.
  • Tracking student progress when students aren’t actually enrolled at UC.

We’ll share the story of how we managed to overcome these challenges, as well as hopes for the future of such courses at our college.  Open online courses of this type attract students who otherwise would not be engaged or interested in returning to school to get their next degree.  They might be attracted to reduced overall tuition costs and possibly time to degree completion, while also allowing them to maximize their financial aid allotment.  A TOOC can also be marketed as a value enhancement, especially for established programs looking for a competitive advantage because of new entrants into the market. 

Launched in October of 2015, the UC Respiratory TOOC currently has 182 students enrolled, 63 of whom have completed the whole course. That’s an astonishing 34% completion rate, compared to the typical MOOC completion rate of as low as 5%. Of those 63 students, 11 have enrolled in UC’s Respiratory Therapy baccalaureate program, which means that the cost of development has been repaid several times over.  In addition to expanding this concept to other programs, another possible next step is to look in to awarding continuing education credits for the TOOC completion through the American Association for Respiratory Care. 

Session attendees will leave with a better understanding of how a MOOC can become a TOOC, and how an open online course can benefit both institution and students.