The NESC® and the New Frontier of Education Technology: The MOOC

| Ernesto Vega Janica, © Baloo,

As technology evolves, so does education and training. Adapting to new venues and communication tools is a constant challenge for all stakeholders, especially for professional organizations that foster technological innovation and excellence, such as IEEE and other standards development organizations (SDO).

In anticipation of the publication of C2, National Electric Safety Code® (NESC®), 2017 edition, education experts and standards professionals are working together to leverage technology, research, and recommendations to integrate MOOCs (massive open online courses) and other training materials into our technical community.  What is and what is not a MOOC has been the topic of multiple papers and discussions and will not be reiterated in detail here.

A global consensus presented in a unified tone

Imagine a massive public educational program teaching safety and regulatory standards, in this case, the NESC. This is a remarkable milestone for the global technical community and for the professionals contributing to all of our standards. As pioneers on safety, the NESC technical committees have provided valuable contributions for over 100 years and now, with the sponsorship of IEEE, they will be pioneers in the world of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

A primary goal of the NESC MOOC will be to provide a unified message in a timely and comprehensive fashion to all participants, which in the case of a MOOC, may vary from a couple of hundred to several thousand participants. Thus, the MOOC will be a preferred instrument for transmitting the standard’s content (that is, technical global consensus) in a direct unified format.

How can it be achieved?

There are many ways of providing online courses. One of the most cost-effective is using existing IT platforms as a backbone and making necessary arrangements to handle the requirements of massive open courses.

Proper planning and collaboration with technical experts, as well as with MOOC providers, will be needed in order to get it done right. Failure to provide timely and comprehensive sessions by poorly designed courses, or during any particular session, could mislead participants or open the door for misuse and misinterpretation of the standard’s content.  Therefore, planning will be rigorous and the IEEE Standards Association and IEEE Educational Activities will jointly oversee the production of all course material. The main development milestones are summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Course Development Milestones.

Figure 1. Course Development Milestones.

What is a MOOC?

Briefly, a MOOC comprises four qualities:

M-Massive: With more than 7,000 registrants in one of our earliest MOOCs[1], the capabilities of IT resources have been put to the test, and passed with flying colors.

O-Open: There are no pre-requisites for participants other than access to a computer or mobile device and connection to the Internet. Students and professionals, even those not in the electrical engineering field, will be able to access the courses. Also, the participation of code enforcers, researchers, standards development representatives, and other interested parties is expected. Everyone is invited.

Access to our initial MOOC was free. For future MOOCs, administrative fees may be required for processing certificate and/or CEU credits.

O-Online: Courses can be transmitted partially or entirely via the Internet. The more video content, the more broadband will be required from the participant’s Internet connection.

C-Courses: One of the characteristics that differentiate MOOCs from most other open educational resources is that they are organized into a complete course over a series of sessions on a specific topic, in this case the NESC.

Topics, Metrics, and the Road Map for Improvement

The relevance of the topic is a key element for a successful MOOC. Fortunately, the NESC is a magnificent source of technical and safety material for presentation via MOOC. An overview of the tentative NESC MOOC is summarized in Figure 2 and Figure 3.

Figure 2. An Overview of the NESC MOOC.

Figure 2. An Overview of the NESC MOOC.

Figure 3. An Overview of the NESC MOOC. Cont.

Figure 3. An Overview of the NESC MOOC. Cont.

Success will be measured with new IT analytics and metrics, such as history logs, data transmission indexes, internet connection/crash reports, etc. IEEE IT infrastructure allows collection of all that data. This will help identify hot topics as well as those topics or sessions where participants struggle. This knowledge will then add significant value to the standards development process, as well as refining and improving the participant experience.

The road map for improvement and refinement will be inclusive and open.  In some cases, sessions will need special assistance due to geographic location where participants are situated; others will need special features and supportive documentation based on education level (high school diploma, college, advanced degree, etc.) or based on the age of the participants, or other criteria. Translation to other languages will be evaluated after the first couple of sessions are released in English.

User Interface, Feedback, and Networking

Currently being designed, the user interface will be interactive and will allow for constant communication and feedback between participants, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Draft sample of the NESC Mobile App and MOOC interface.

Figure 4. Draft sample of the NESC Mobile App and MOOC interface.


Formal Code interpretations and even historical reports could be shared and discussed among participants, which will expand networking opportunities and collaboration.

To conclude, it is essential to recognize the multiple challenges involved in developing a successful MOOC. Through intelligent topic selection and advanced technological features, IEEE is committed to providing an unprecedented experience to those interested in the NESC areas of expertise.

188f03cErnesto Vega Janica

Ernesto Vega Janica, Senior Manager of Opportunities Development, IEEE Standards Association

Ernesto Vega Janica, Senior Manager of Opportunities Development at IEEE Standards Association in Piscataway, NJ, is an Electrical Engineer with a MSc in Project Management and a MEng. in Fire Protection Engineering. He has been a member of IEEE, NFPA & SFPE for over 10 years and a Member of Board of Directors of SFPE New Jersey chapter.
Mr. Vega Janica is a well-developed professional with 15 years’ experience in the fire protection, fire & life safety, and in the standards development industry. He is the author of multiple technical papers and speeches; and is expecting a patent on Strobe Light calculations using Performance Based Design criteria. He has relevant speaking experience before IEEE, NFPA & SFPE national e international conferences (2010-2011-2012-2013-2014-2015).