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Kris Brandemuehl: MOOC Experience.


My MOOC Experience…

Ever since the administration at WCC started talking about MOOCs and the potential integration of MOOCs and our course offerings two years ago, I became intrigued with what a MOOC was and how quality of an educational modality it might be. I was certainly a bit skeptical – especially when the completion rates of MOOCs hover in the single digits.

I just completed my first MOOC along with several thousand others (of whom most likely didn’t obtain a certificate J) and I wanted to share my experience with you. The course I chose was History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education offered through Duke University. The learning objectives of this course caught my eye as I initially began my search for a course through Coursera.

1) Understand how and why we inherited the Industrial Age educational systems.

2) Think deeply about the requirements of the world we live in now.

3) Discover new ideas, methods, competencies, and subject matter.

4) Share our pathways to successful innovation with others around the world. Together, we can change schools, classrooms, institutions, learning–and maybe ourselves!

I figured that participating in this MOOC would not only give me some perspective on them, but might also give me some good ideas for my own online and mixed mode courses. Selfishly, I also thought it might be a great treat to be able to participate in a quality academic forum that had no pressures of GPA and no cost associated with it. Finally, I assumed I would learn something that might make me a more informed teacher in the higher education system. This MOOC was a 6-week course that incorporated video lectures, discussion board threads, readings, optional writing assignments with peer reviews (necessary for receiving a certificate with distinction) and quizzes.

There was definitely a “honeymoon” phase of the course in the first two weeks where the newness and uniqueness shone brightly for me and fed my motivation to participate at the highest level. I was motivated to get the certificate with distinction at the end of the six week so I participated in the first writing assignment and dutifully reviewed the writings of three other classmates. I watched all of the videos and completed the readings. I successfully took the quizzes – that were multiple choice and allowed for repeated attempts – on time and prepared to do well.

Probably much like our own students, by about the third week, I began viewing the requirements of the course as “obligations” and crammed in the work toward the end of the week – just in time to hit the deadlines. I gave up on the certificate with distinction when I saw the feedback on my first writing. I had spent time and energy carefully reviewing my peers’ work and giving thoughtful comments. My work came back with the minimal number scores and hardly any feedback. By the fifth and sixth weeks, I had discovered that in the multiple choice quizzes, the phrase “check all that apply” meant that every answer listed was a correct one and should be chosen. Embarrassingly, I took the final quiz without watching the videos (I scanned the transcripts of the video to make sure I had the highlights) and got a perfect score.

Lessons Learned:

1) I am glad I participated in this course. I am much more informed when I speak of MOOCs and their possibilities to others in my field. I learned a few new things with respect to the history and future of higher education.

2) When something is free, I am much less likely to feel invested and work to the best of my ability.

3) Our distance learning courses are of high quality and offer a lot for our students. I thought taking a course from a very reputable institution of higher learning would represent a showcase experience for me from which to learn. I am not sure their offering was better than (or even on par with) what we offer.

4) It is fun to take the opportunity to keep my brain active through learning. I have since signed up for another MOOC through Harvard: “Unlocking the Immunity to Change” and began that course last week. It appears that it will involve a bit more work and I won’t be able to get through without completing it thoroughly.

5) I don’t think MOOCs will ever replace us as the mode of learning.

I am happy to talk further with anyone who would like more information about MOOCs or my experience participating in a MOOC.




Interview with Diana Clark 


When did you first start working at WCC?  What brought you here initially? 

I started working at WCC in September of 1989. I had completed my associate degree at WCC and transferred to EMU in the early 1970’s. At EMU, I completed a BS in Psychology and then a Masters in Guidance and Counseling. After working for 9 years in the area of Employment and Training, I decided it was time for a change. I asked myself where I would be really excited to work, I immediately thought of WCC because I loved my time here as a student. I wanted to offer to students the kind of support that had been given to me. I got the position and it has been a wonderful 23½ years since then.

In your opinion, what is it about WCC that sets it apart from other colleges?

Washtenaw has had a wonderful reputation for offering quality education. I feel so fortunate and proud to have been a part of the WCC family which includes so many excellent faculty and staff members who have created this, “Miracle in the Apple Orchard.”

Can you describe your role here over the years at WCC?

I started as a counselor in the Counseling Department and after 12 years was asked by Dean Abernethy to be his Division Counselor for HSS. The ways in which I have felt most useful have been career counseling, advocating for students, counseling students in personal development and a being part of the HSBS Division. I do my best to build trust with our students so they know they can come to me with their concerns. I love it when I can help students solve problems, whether of a personal nature or helping them to navigate to the best campus resources for a particular issue.

As a division counselor, I have the added satisfaction of working closely with teaching faculty. They refer students to me for assistance with a variety of issues. I have provided classroom informational and career sessions in a number of the ACS and ENG classes.

Another thing I have especially enjoyed is supporting good opportunities for professional development. I appreciate the hard work of individuals such as Kim Shepherd and Julie Kissel who have both served in the role of planning and coordinating faculty in-service. I was happy when the FPDC was created and now they handle in-service. Though my input is small compared to these fine faculty members, I feel good about working with them in bringing presenters such as Marianne Auten who presented on the importance of mind set in student success and  the organization of workspace (Kathleen Alessandro) and of course, my part in bringing the On Course Workshop I (Skip Downing) to our campus.

You are being honored as an OnCourse Ambassador of the year in the spring, can you share some of your experiences regarding OnCourse and how it has affected your teaching and advising?

The ideas in On Course are so connected with my counseling philosophy that I was powerfully drawn to it right away. It has been since 1980 that I finished my Masters in Guidance and Counseling at EMU. Though I had experienced wonderful professional development opportunities since then, On Course allowed me to feel renewed in motivation; in student-centered education and also provided some unique tools that help me to have more impact with students.

I think the On Course ideas that have been most useful to me in working with students  are: 

               Victim/Creator (Personal Responsibility)

               Goal Setting and Action Plans (Self-Management)

               Learning to change self-defeating habits (Self-Awareness)

               Understanding and managing emotions (Emotional Intelligence)


What people have inspired you both personally and professionally?  Why?

   My heroes are:

       My Mom– She is still a warm, optimistic and active woman at 88 years of age,even though she had a difficult early life. She is my role model.

       Dr. Louis Thayer- The late EMU Professor in the Guidance and Counseling Department was my favorite teacher had the greatest influence on my professional development.

        Jane Goodall – In my next life, I will do the kind of life’s work like she has done in this one. She found and followed her passion and has impacted the way we view and treat our close relatives on this earth.

        Gloria Steinem – She has been the clear voice for gender equality during my lifetime. Her life of service has touched my life in powerful ways.

Is there something you did here at WCC that you are really proud of?  

I’m proudest of my efforts to help students solve problems, believe in themselves, and go for their dreams. I think of it as helping students identify the unique combination of personal qualities that when combined help them to find their way on a career path. I call it “Putting the Pieces Together”, as in assembling a puzzle. The real pride is in my students who are courageous in moving through this process and being true to themselves.

For you, personally, what were some of the most exciting times you have experienced here at WCC?

You know, there are so many and probably the best have been students succeeding through the support the college offers. That is so powerful and I am proud to have been a part of that.

Some of the most exciting times were experienced when I was a student here in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. What an interesting time to be a student here. There was the newness of the college at the Willow Run campus and then here on the permanent site where the college went through its infancy and finding its way to become the place I came to love. During those years, there was the political climate around Ann Arbor, the Women’s Rights Movement, Vietnam war protests, falling in love with biology through taking Jim Strayer’s classes and reconnecting with nature on this beautiful campus. It was then that I developed an interest in photography. (Pun intended.) It seems that we were a diverse campus then as well as now. There were so many interesting people here including fellow students and pioneering faculty members who began the creating the “Miracle in the Apple Orchard.” What a rich environment to begin putting the pieces together for myself. I love this place!

What is your best advice for WCC students?

My advice for students: These are some of things that I have found helpful. I find it useful to revisit and relearn them at various points in my life. 

Accept yourself and take responsibility for your life. Set goals and take action toward those goals you hold most dear. Identify your strengths and also the areas in which you could benefit from development. See failure as part of learning not as a sign that you should give up. Recognize that it is usually more important how you react to difficult events in life than the events themselves. Strive for excellence but not for perfection. Ask for help if you need it and offer it to others because few of us have reached great success without assistance along the way. 

What are some of your dreams and goals for retirement?

I think that counseling can be a very creative process. I may find myself volunteering or working part-time in assisting people or protecting the environment. Helping is what I am meant to do. Other ways of expressing my creativity are through photography, gardening, creating ways for people to connect, and communing with nature. I have a wall hanging in our place in Boyne City and it reads: “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”  Wordsworth. That really speaks to me at this time in my life. 

So, it’s onward to new adventures and continued learning! 

To Washtenaw Community College, I offer my best wishes for a future with healthy growth, quality education, creativity, collaboration, heart, and to always be one of the best places to work and be a student.