FHSU joins global MOOC movement: Sociology professor leads online coursework in Kansas into free educational experiment

Distance education at Fort Hays State University will dip into the MOOC world on Oct. 16 when Dr. Keith Campbell's course "Social Entrepreneurship" begins.

MOOC -- massive, open, online course -- is a development in distance education that seeks to reach a large-scale audience of learners by offering the course material free online. The list of universities participating in the MOOC experiment includes some of the largest and most prestigious universities in the world.

The key features of MOOCs are no tuition, online delivery and a global classroom.

Campbell, a professor of sociology at FHSU, said his course "is for people who want to make a meaningful difference in their community, state or country."

"It's for people who have a category of other people who they care about. They want to help them but are perhaps unsure of how to go about it. This is a free opportunity to learn how to make a positive impact on people’s lives."

Campbell has more than 20 years experience in social entrepreneurship -- the use of innovation to find new ways to help people in need. He oversees a master’s program in social entrepreneurship at FHSU and is a recognized authority in this field.

Whether the concern is about the homeless, abandoned children, the elderly, the addicted, or teens considering suicide, the five-week course provides a step-by-step guide for building a social entrepreneurship project. A project could be aimed at helping people on another continent, or the target group could be people in the local community. The choice is for each participant to make, he said.

"They can learn how people all over the world are stepping up to start projects to help others in need," said Campbell.

Fort Hays State has been a leader and innovator in distance education since first offering correspondence courses in 1911, when it was still the Western Branch State Normal School in Hays, charged with producing teachers for the rural schools sprouting up all across the Kansas plains.

Those first distance courses at FHSU shared one of the key features of MOOCs today: They were free. Drought had devastated the wheat crop all over the region that year, and teachers in rural schools throughout the region could not afford to come to Hays for the summer courses required by law. The Hays faculty voted to conduct free correspondence courses.

In the distance education world of a hundred years later, Campbell said that "Social Entrepreneurship," his online academic course, is part of a broader "social entrepreneurship revolution" in which people living everyday, normal lives step forward to help others in need.

"And in addition to personal satisfaction," he said, "people can also earn salaries."

All the information needed to get started, including a week-by-week course guide and a link to the enrollment site, is at http://gotmooc.net.

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