The University of Massachusetts, Boston, offers a suite of courses in early childhood as part of its free, online OpenCourseWare. These three 2011-dated courses each comprise a self study guide, audio PowerPoint presentations (with links to additional videos), online tests and a wide range of readings. They each take 15 hours to study, and the second and third courses are also offered in Spanish.
Infant and Toddler Guidelines
This course by Professor Mary Lu Love provides a comprehensive view of the development of infants and toddlers. It is arranged in six sessions:
1: Exploring the ELG for Infants and Toddlers
2: Social and Emotional Development
3: Cognitive Development
4: Language and Communication Development
5: Physical Health and Well-Being
6: Beyond the Basics: Best Practices and conclusion
The course is built upon the Massachusetts Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers (2010), an excellent 200-page free download.
EEC – Core Competencies
The second course by Professor Mary Lu Love is designed to provide early childhood education professionals with the knowledge and skills to assess their own level in terms of the eight core competencies, across the infant-toddler, preschool and out-of-school age range.
Each module is based on one of the eight core competencies:
1) understanding growth and development of children and youth
2) guiding and interacting with children and youth
3) partnering with families and communities
4) health, safety and nutrition
5) learning environments and curriculum
6) observation, assessment and documentation
7) program planning and development
8) professionalism and leadership
EEC – Preschool Learning Standards and Guidelines
The third course, by Professor Angi Stone-MacDonald, is designed to equip early childhood education professionals with the knowledge and skills to teach each content area according to the preschool learning guidelines. It comprises 7 modules covering the guidelines for:
1) Learning in History and Social Science
3) Learning in English Language Arts
5) Learning in Science and Technology/Engineering
6) Health Education
7) Early Childhood Program Standards Module
So how do these free courses compare with the MOOCs I reviewed last month? The shared characteristics of the UMass Boston courses include their being totally free to study, with no register or login required. You can download and keep the content, which gives you the freedom to begin whenever you want and study at your own pace, in contrast to the MOOCs that I reviewed last month, which both ran over a fixed 4-week schedule and required registration and log-in. Another difference is that while the MOOCs offer the motivation of large student cohorts (750 at Open2Study, 20,000 at Coursera), you study OpenCourseWare on your own, without any ready-made social dimensions – although they do lend themselves to group study amongst friends or work groups. Finally, UMass Boston’s OpenCourseWare is Creative Commons licensed, which makes them particularly attractive to educators and trainers who may, for example, freely adapt them for particular settings or translate them into different languages.
So, are these courses better than MOOCs? I think a lot depends upon your own situation. If you need structure and group support to study, then look at MOOCs first. If, however, you prefer to study alone and have sufficient self-discipline, or need maximum flexibility, then UMass Boston’s OpenCourseWare is an excellent option.