Ag Goes Online at OSU


September 14, 2016

Story provided by Oklahoma Horizon

The world of education is available with the click of the mouse. The popularity of online education lead several traditional universities to make their own courses more accessible to the public. OKLAHOMA HORIZON’s Austin Moore shares how one of those universities started their program by teaching ag online.

The idea is straight forward: offer a class, offer it online, make it available to anyone and accept everyone. Hence the term, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

Throughout this emerging industry, you’ll find courses offered for credit, some of certifications and others simply for the sake of learning. It is no small way, the wild, wild west of post-secondary education.

“We are in a period of rapid change in higher education right now,” says Gary Sandefur is the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Oklahoma State University. “And I think it’s wise for major research universities and teaching universities like Oklahoma State University to investigate some of the different options for delivering the knowledge that we have.”

Which is why Oklahoma State University, a traditional four-year university, now offers MOOCs.

“Part of what we’re trying to do as a land-grant university,” Sandefur explains, “is to be a service to the people of the state and now even more broadly, the people of the world. So a MOOC is a way of making our knowledge and our experience and what we know here, available to lots of people throughout the state and throughout the world.”

For their first entry, they turned to agriculture, a strength of OSU academics, asking Ag Economist Bailey Norwood to design the course.

“It’s called Farm to Fork: A Panoramic View of Agriculture,” says Norwood, “and it tries to improve agricultural literacy, describe the science behind modern agriculture and help people appreciate and understand agricultural controversies.”

This course, and the other OSU MOOC’s offer three models: OSU students can take the course for credit, anyone can take the course for free, with no credit, but the public can also enroll for correspondence credit.

“You could be in high school and earn credit,” says Norwood. “You could be in a nursing home and earn credit. As long as you have an internet hook-up, there are no prerequisites at all. You know, what you see, you are treated exactly like the students here on campus are when they are taking the course.”

Giving a sense of adventure to education and making its online future feel massive and wide open.

The popularity of online courses has even given rise to private organizations, with three top organizations offering more than 2,500 courses combined in January of 2016.