College of Liberal Arts to offer three SMOCs in the fall


Marsha Miller

Psychology professors James Pennebaker (left) and Samuel Gosling deliver a video lecture for an online psychology course. Students who took the online course were found to perform better on tests than past students who were taught using a conventional approach.

YoungJee Jung

The College of Liberal Arts has expanded its synchronous massive online course offerings for the fall semester by an additional course for fall semester.
The SMOC format was launched in fall 2013 by psychology professors Samuel Gosling and James Pennebaker. Gosling and Pennebaker co-taught an “Introduction to Psychology” SMOC, which they named “Psychology LIVE.” The college also offered an “American Government” course in the SMOC format the fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters.
SMOCs, or synchronous massive online courses, are live-streamed online-courses that require students to log in at specific times to watch live lectures, take quizzes and exercises, and participate in chat room discussions.
According to Pennebaker, students participating in SMOCs are able to engage in more social online interaction than they would be able to in massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which do not require live participation from students.
“Online education is revolutionizing education as we know it. The benefits far outweigh the downsides,” Pennebaker said. “Depending on the quality of the online course, students can learn more efficiently at a fraction of the price compared to traditional classes.”
In addition to offering “Psychology LIVE” and “American Government” again for the fall semester, the College of Liberal Arts is including “U.S. Foreign Policy.”
While UT students can sign up for the courses during registration, non-admitted students can also take the classes for credit through University Extension. However, only Gosling and Pennebaker’s psychology course is being offered to non-admitted students as a SMOC. The government courses will only be available to non-admitted students in an “on-demand” format similar to that of a MOOC.
The college is also offering four other for-credit courses exclusively through University Extension with the “on-demand” model.
Government professor Robert Moser, who will be co-teaching his first SMOC, “U.S. Foreign Policy,” believes that the format can provide an attractive and valuable alternative for students planning on taking introductory courses.
“As an instructor, the online format provides opportunities to introduce technologies such as video clips, online surveys, live chat, and simulations that I could not easily integrate in a traditional in-person course,” said Moser, who is also the chair of the government department. “Since I was going to ask my colleagues in the government department to consider this new technology in their introductory courses, I thought I better try it myself.”
Government professor Eric McDaniel, who will be co-teaching the “American Government” SMOC, said there are both pros and cons to the format, like any other type of class.
“A significant gain in these online courses is that I have more time to deliver more content material. I spend less time repeating myself in the SMOC than I do in the traditional lecture setting,” McDaniel said. “Of course, with online courses, I lose the ability to assess students’ understandings with eye contact.”
The SMOCs are priced for non-admitted students at either $200 or $350, with an additional $10 library fee to access online material. Registration closes for the courses on Sept. 15, but a $60 late fee will be charged to those who sign up after Aug. 15.