News at Smith

Educating the Masses in a “Massive” Way

Apr 24, 2013
World Class Faculty & Research


Henry “Hank” Lucas, Smith School professor of information systems, is taking on a new challenge: educating 10,000 students on surviving disruptive technologies — all at once.

Lucas is teaching a massive open online course— a MOOC — titled “Surviving Disruptive Technologies” which began March 25. He also wrote a book on the subject that was released last year. His 7-week long course teaches students how one person’s innovation is another person’s disruptive technology. He hopes his course will allow his students to avoid becoming like the companies he’s researched, such as Kodak — the 133-year old company that recently filed for bankruptcy.

“Kodak’s lack of action in responding to the digital camera market cost it its standing, along with 100,000 jobs, which can equate to 300,000 to 400,000 people negatively affected when families are considered. My course’s purpose is to help my students avoid having this happen to themselves and their organizations, and to take action while there is still time,” Lucas said.

Lucas uses Coursera, a company that partners with universities worldwide to offer free MOOCs, to teach his course. Delivering class content online to thousands of students presented a tall order for Lucas, who has taught online before.

Lucas Cousera

Lucas explains responses to disruptive technologies in a Coursera lecture video.

“I had to learn a new way of teaching. I record short 10-minute video lectures and incorporate a PowerPoint presentation and stylus during the recording,” he explained. “It can take an hour just to record one video, then you must edit, produce and upload the content to Coursera.”

Besides producing content, interactivity is another challenge. With the help of a teaching assistant, Lucas monitors a discussion board and a class wiki where he comments, responds and records new videos based on student feedback.

Also different: grading in Coursera is determined by peer-reviewed essays. Research has shown a .8 correlation to grades given by students and grading done by a professor, Lucas said. Students do not gain course credit, but will receive a certificate when they successfully complete the course.

While MOOCs are certainly catching on – Coursera gained 2.5 million students in less than a year – it has its skeptics, including those who believe MOOCs do not have a direct benefit for Maryland residents.

Lucas is on the University of Maryland’s Provost’s Commission on Blended and Online Education. He foresees MOOCs as a disruptive technology for the university and “our Napster moment.”

Although revenue models have not yet been widely developed, Lucas believes UMD and the Smith School should offer a wide selection of MOOCs in order to ensure an advantageous “balance of trade” later on. He expects MOOCs will one day be offered for credit toward graduation, and that students will take MOOCs from other universities for credit at the university they are attending.

“We want to have already established our brand and reputation in the MOOC market when this happens,” he said.

As to the value for the Smith School? “I could have never reached 10,000 students in a lifetime before,” Lucas explained. “We (Smith) want to be leaders in new markets, to understand the market before others get there, and establish the Smith School brand as a world-leader in high-end online education.”


About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.