Reformer ToolboxLogin

CancelLost your password?

MOOCs with a Purpose: Using Online Learning to Educate Policymakers

• Sarah Bishop-Root

Over the past several years, the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has sparked an international dialogue around democratizing education, potential business models for MOOC providers and higher education institutions offering MOOCs, and the scalability of online education.

While observing the evolution of the MOOC conversation, The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) was interested in experimenting with how we might use this new model to solve challenges consistently observed in the education policy arena. Specifically, there is a high rate of policymaker turnover and lack of institutional expertise, which calls for resources that build knowledge about education issues and reform policies. Conventional responses have included conferences, convenings, white papers and webinars.  We chose to explore the following three questions:

  1. Are MOOCs an effective vehicle to increase and expand the reach of professional development opportunities for policymakers and education leaders? We wanted to design courses specifically for policymakers and policy shapers that would also be accessible to the public. (To effectively create change, it is valuable to educate and engage stakeholders at all levels of the system.)
  2. How can we repurpose relevant content ExcelinEd has already created and organize it within a course to create a meaningful learning experience? We wanted to be able to provide rich context and deepen engagement in topics in ways that a webinar or whitepaper may not achieve.
  3. How can we effectively measure the long-term impact and outcomes of open online courses on education reform?

EdPolicy Leaders OnlineThe quest to explore these questions resulted in the March launch of EdPolicy Leaders Online, Excelined’s MOOC series offering free, self-paced courses designed for policymakers and open to the public.

This blog post launches a blog series that will explore the journey we took from a programmatic perspective. We will take a deeper dive into each aforementioned question, our approach, best practices and lessons learned. Stay tuned for more in this series. In the meantime, check out the three EdPolicy Leaders Online courses available right now.

  • Data Privacy? Get Schooled:This course, developed in coordination with the Data Quality Campaign, discusses the value data brings to education, offers recommendations for addressing privacy concerns while promoting effective data use and explores lessons learned from existing and emerging policies in education and other sectors.
  • Securing Our Nation’s Future:A failing American educational system threatens U.S. national security. In this course, participants will hear from national leaders and experts about these threats, the urgent need for education reform and how America can ensure its own security and global leadership for future generations.
  • Communications Boot Camp: Winning the Ed Reform Conversation:How we deliver our messages makes a big difference when it comes to winning the education reform conversation. In this course, participants will build their communications skills related to media relations, targeted messaging and the use of social media.


Watch ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque share her thoughts on the benefits of EdPolicy Leaders Online.


About the author

Sarah Bishop-Root

Sarah Bishop-Root serves as the MOOC Program Director (EdPolicy Leaders Online) at the Foundation for Excellence in Education Prior to joining ExcelinEd, Sarah Bishop-Root spent four years at Blackboard, focusing on educational technology adoption and emerging trends in education. As Senior Manager of Client Engagement for Blackboard, she developed and executed a MOOC and Open Education strategy. In this role she worked closely with institution decision makers and educators globally and contributed to the development and launch of Blackboard’s MOOC platform.