MOOC Explores Innovation & Competition: Succeeding through Global Standards

| Jennifer McClain, David Law

The first of its kind massive open online course (MOOC) to focus on technical standards and standards development ran successfully between 29 March 2016 and 13 May 2016. The course, Innovation & Competition: Succeeding through Global Standards, was delivered on the platform.

The course offered a practitioner’s view of technical standards, and was geared to students and professionals in the fields of engineering, technology, computing, business, economics, and law—particularly those working in all facets of product planning, development, and support.

This course was designed to enable learners to better contribute to their organization and to advance their careers. Topics included:

  • Different types of standards;
  • How standards impact trade and innovation;
  • How standards evolve;
  • Why companies participate in standards development;
  • How standards change to meet emerging needs;
  • Strategic implications of standards;
  • How standards apply to product design and planning;
  • Conformity assessment, regulation, and intellectual property issues.

Who attended?

  • Total enrollment was 2,974 students.
  • The median age of those enrolled was 30.
  • 43% of the students had college degrees and 37.7% had advanced degrees.
  • 4% of the enrolled students were women.
  • Students from 136 countries registered, with enrollments from India making up the largest percentage at 16%, followed by the US at 15%. Geographic area enrollment from Asia equaled 37%, from Europe 20%, North America 18%, Latin America and the Caribbean 11%, and Africa 8%.

Who were the instructors?

Jeffrey Strauss was the lead instructor for the course. He was aided by 17 guest lecturers who donated their time to the critical subject of technical standards. Representing academia, industry, and government, such a diverse group offered expertise in their individual fields, providing a wide breadth and depth of material for the students that was simply not available previously. This unique offering also greatly broadened the reach of standards education content worldwide.

Jeffrey Strauss indicated that “preparing the MOOC took considerable time because it required engaging and coordinating multiple speakers (and we ultimately had an amazing range of speakers), and introducing standards in such a way that course users from multiple countries (136!), native languages, goals in taking the MOOC, and prior experience could understand and appreciate. I think we succeeded—and I learned a lot!”

Strauss further noted that leading a MOOC was very different from teaching a traditional face-to face course, “I cannot see the students to gauge fluctuation in their interest and understanding and any interaction between them. Seeing and responding to later posted comments was useful but far less satisfying.  My presentations were filmed and fixed to allow people everywhere to view at their convenience, so I could not make my usual on-the-fly adjustments to improve them.  We also could not do team exercises. Especially given cultural differences and distance, I also had to restrain my tendency to use jokes or even facial or idiomatic expressions and movement. Despite all this, it was a terrific experience. I am gratified at the overall positive response from users and from others who review and hear about the MOOC (which is surprisingly frequent in meetings around the world). It was also invaluable to interact with IEEE staff (who were incredible), the Standards Education Committee, and the great speakers as it came together. I look forward to the next time the MOOC is offered.”

How can you take the course?

The course is now open for registrations and will begin on 27 September 2016. All six hours of content will be available on-demand so students can engage with the course at their convenience. Once again, it will be offered free of charge, with Certificates of Completion available for a small fee.

Funding for this course was provided by the IEEE Foundation Fund and the IEEE Life Members Fund.

Visit all IEEE sponsored MOOCs at

Jennifer A. McClain

IEEE Standards Education & Business Development

Jennifer began her career at the IEEE in 1997 as Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science and IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. She spent eight years with the IEEE Standards Association editing standards, aiding working groups with the standards development process, and as the Managing Editor of the Standards Information Network, publishing handbooks and guides to help with the implementation and understanding of standards. Now with IEEE Educational Activities, she manages all functions related to the Standards Education Programs and Committee, and as part of the business development team develops opportunities for IEEE Educational Activities.

Jennifer holds a B.A. with History and English Majors from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, and attended the Masters of Education in Social Studies program at West Chester University, West Chester, PA, obtaining a Pennsylvania Secondary Education Teaching Certificate in Social Studies.