With MOOC gaining popularity through easily accessible websites such as Coursera, it is no surprise that traditional institutions of higher learning are beginning to implement their own spin. In August, two professors at the University of Texas at Austin launched an SMOC, or Synchronous Massive Online Class, the first of its kind at any school.
Like an MOOC, an SMOC is an online course, available to students and members of the general public. However, the SMOC has a more traditional class basis. There are tuition fees attached that are paid to the host university. There is also a set class time with an SMOC: students, professors, and assistants are all online at once, unlike the “watch whenever” ability of MOOC. This allows for the potential for real time interaction and feedback between student, peer, and instructor.
Each SMOC could support up to ten thousand enrollments. At a cost of $550, the class is a bargain for both UT students and others: in-state UT students would pay $900 for a similar class, and out of state students would pay $3000. At the goal of ten thousand enrolled, the SMOC could bring in as much as $5.5 million per class.
Students are benefiting more than just financially from the SMOC model. Algorithms created by the SMOC’s instructors during the pilot program are more able to suss out plagiarism and other forms of cheating. In addition, the requirement of a quiz at the beginning of every session not only improved the grades of the pilot course’s students when compared to students taking the course traditionally, but many of them also showed higher grades in other classes, as well.