Sean Pinder, Paul Kofman and Deborah Jones

The development of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has revolutionised the way in which universities can reach students and communities around the world. Faculty of Business and Economics staff Professor Paul Kofman and Associate Professor Sean Pinder in collaboration with Deborah Jones from Learning Environments services, have successfully utilised the new platform to attract over 130,000 students from mainly developing countries to enrol in their course, Essentials of Corporate Finance Specialisation, earning them the Excellence in Engagement – Teaching Award.

Sean Pinder and Paul Kofman
Sean Pinder and Paul Kofman.

In partnership with financial services firm BNY Mellon the course reached hundreds of participants in mainly developing countries, teaching essential financial literacy skills to students who would otherwise be unable to access such a course through traditional means due to geographic, economic and social barriers.

The MOOC demonstrates the University’s commitment to innovate programs, curriculum and pedagogy that maximise student engagement and deepen its public impact. For instance, the introduction of a moderated discussion board allowed students to interact with each other as well as a team of specialist teaching assistants from the University. High-performing students volunteered their time as Community Teaching Assistants and led discussions in forums, while a significant number of students also began exchanging WhatsApp details to establish a cohort-type experience that was similar to traditional university settings. The conversion of academic articles into easy to understand graphs and figures had a knock-on effect on traditional course materials at the faculty. This approach sharpens student understanding and engagement - a key objective of the University.

Deborah Jones and her team at Learning Environments, including Grace McCorkell, Peter Mellow and Jamie Morris.
Deborah Jones (second from right) and her team at Learning Environments, including Grace McCorkell (left), Peter Mellow (second from left) and Jamie Morris (right).

For Pinder the award is an affirmation of the University’s emphasis on meaningful engagement in a manner that transcends state and national borders.

“I see the award as a statement by the University that, as a world leader in higher education, it understands its obligation to “pay it forward” to those who might never otherwise have a chance to undertake a quality educational experience,” he says.

To me, at its essence, engagement is about providing meaningful access to my skill-set to those that I otherwise wouldn’t have contact with through my normal employment within the University of Melbourne. Without the MOOC, I would not have had the chance to engage in the many discussions with executives at BNY Mellon about the application of finance theory to practice. Associate Professor Sean Pinder

“Equally, without the MOOC I would not have had the chance to engage with the 60 year old professional in Brazil or the budding undergraduate student in Ghana who were otherwise struggling to find quality materials in the area that they could easily access. Being able to construct a course that brought those two disparate groups (multinational financial institution and intellectually engaged individuals) together has been especially pleasing.”