English Language Programs and Online Learning celebrate Highest Rated New Course achievement on Coursera

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April 4, 2017

The English Language Programs (ELP) in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies recently reached a major online education milestone: enrolling 250,000 learners and climbing, on Coursera. ELP’s massive open online course (MOOC) English for Business and Entrepreneurship also won the honor of Highest Rated New Course. With a score of 4.83/5, the MOOC is making strong impact on its learners.

English for Business and Entrepreneurship was a joint effort with ELP and Arts & Sciences Online Learning who produced the videos and digital content for the courses. With the help of a grant from the Department of State, the team was able to create a highly interactive and visual online classroom.

“There are lots of content courses designed for native English speakers or people with advanced English proficiency,” James Riedel, PhD, Director of English Language Programs, points out. “This is quite different: this is content with a language focus that is designed for someone with lower English proficiency. Someone with a higher proficiency can also take the course and benefit, and many of the learners have clearly been above the targeted language. We think one of the reasons the course has been so popular is that learners are getting two benefits from one course: content and the language to understand and express themselves around the content.”

In design and development, Jackie Candido, PhD, Senior Director of Program Design & Delivery for Arts & Sciences Online Learning shares, “Our goal is to engage and retain our learners. Our MOOC is unique in that it has achievements that unlock new features as the learner progresses. We also have animated flash cards that increase vocabulary and a cast of animated characters who help our instructors tell the story in a vibrant and fun way.”

Kevin Donohue, the designer who brought the characters to life notes, “Basic shapes and bright colors were the key ingredients. My favorite is the pink-haired guy with the glasses and polka-dotted shirt because he’s the most whimsical. I’ve taken online courses before and staring at a talking head isn’t as fun or helpful for the learner.”

English Language Programs and Online Learning celebrate Highest Rated New Course achievement on Coursera

According to Jackie, the success of English for Business and Entrepreneurship “opened the doors” for more opportunities in the future for Online Learning and ELP with Coursera. When it comes to being a leader in the worldwide MOOC movement in higher education, Jackie points out, “For our team, it’s about bringing awareness of the strengths of Penn to a global audience.”

And as for the recognition given to English for Business and Entrepreneurship, Jackie beams, “The learners report back to us that the program changed their lives and businesses. It’s what you hope for when you put a course out there that’s free and open—that it will make an impact.”

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