Parami University successfully launched the Massive Open Online Course in Burmese Language (MOOC) in July 2022 and welcomed 20 instructors teaching nearly 600 students from different parts of Myanmar. The semester-long program includes 40 study groups. Inspired by the first-year seminar courses concept offered at US liberal arts colleges, Parami has developed the MOOC program to allow participants to explore different types of readings, including classical and contemporary work in humanities, philosophy, political thought, history, literature, social science, and religion.
The instructors have diverse backgrounds in different fields, including education, public health, law, development studies, international relations, and literature study. They also come from diverse ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and local backgrounds.
We interviewed Dr. Kyaw Win Tun, MOOC Program Director, and Nang Zei Leng, Grants and Program Manager of MOOC, about the program concept, objectives, and launch.
Dr. Kyaw Win Tun, MOOC Program Director, explained the concept of the MOOC program "the program is titled စာဖတ်ဝိုင်း in Burmese. The main intellectual concept of the course is to make critical inquiries into some social concepts we take for granted, such as gender norms and practices. The participants make such an inquiry by reading various texts and having discussions with their peers led by the instructors."
The course syllabus has multiple themes developed by a course design committee formed by nine Myanmar scholars and academics. To ensure diverse views and perspectives, the course advisors fine-tuned the themes for each session, nominated and selected course readings, and developed critical reading questions. They also set the course objectives and learning outcomes. The course design committee was also divided into three sub-committee to coordinate on the similar categories of the above topics. The sub-committees, along with their assigned topics, are as follows: Sub-Committee 1: Eastern Philosophy (Myanmar Literature) and Western Philosophy; Sub-Committee 2: Contemporary Myanmar, regional, and global issues; Imminent threats to the planet earth and Sub-Committee 3: Identity-based issues.
Dr. Kyaw Win Tun highlighted the program concept and the entire curriculum design and development process.
"The whole committee and the sub-committees met two or three hours a week, and the Program Director led each meeting and guided the course development process to ensure coherence of the syllabus. This collaborative work took over four months, from February 2022 to May 2022. Each committee considered ten themes for their assigned topics. During their weekly meetings, they proposed themes, nominated readings for each theme, and discussed these readings. The members also selected reading texts written in English since these would be translated into Burmese," he said.
Leading the MOOC program, Dr. Kyaw Win Tun serves as the Module Production Chair to develop the three modules of the current syllabus and the teacher educator to give teacher development training for seminar facilitation and guidance to the twenty instructors throughout the course. Dr. Kyaw Win Tun is a researcher and educator having a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Within a short time, MOOC attracted nearly thousands of interested applicants from different regions. Nang Zei Leng, Grants and Program Manager of MOOC, shared her experience with the recruitment and selection process, saying, "The number of participants who joined the information sharing session increased weekly. To reach a more diverse group of students, the program team emailed 18 local and community education provision organizations, including some Rohingya camps and high schools along the Myanmar - Thai border. Moreover, several organizations have invited the MOOC program team for the information sharing session with their students."
As Grants and Program Manager, Nang Zei Leng supports the Program Director in undertaking grant reporting and compliance duties and coordinates program advisors, course design teams, instructors, and staff to implement the program.
She continued to share her thoughts on how essential the MOOC program could be for young people in Myanmar at times of calamity.
"This program would be a good platform for youth across the country to come and talk about their opinion and learn to critically ask questions in the Burmese language from reading texts for 16-week long. This is a rare and unique opportunity, especially for students who have less opportunity for educational access. It would be a good platform for students to experience the international college-level class theme on virtual campuses…From my own experience, I realized that only when people, especially young people of this country, have a similar level of education we will be able to solve this country's conflicts and discuss the future we would like to have at the same time. I believe that even though not all students will, some would grab this opportunity and expand their study routes for their futures as I did," said Nang Zei Leng, Grants and Program Manager of MOOC
The program would be a great opportunity for students to learn foundational skills in reading and writing for their academic skills, which are essential for standardized tests (e.g., GED, IELTS, and TOEFL), she added.
MOOC program started on September 5, 2022, and will end on December 23, 2022. The new intake for the upcoming batch will be available in early 2023 on the PICE Facebook page. Please stay tuned for more updates on the program. Massive Open Online Course in Burmese Language (MOOC) is one of the programs offered under the Parami Institute of Continuing Education (PICE) at Parami University. Parami currently offers three offerings: ParamiX online courses, English language courses, and a Burmese language seminar course on analytical skills. All the courses offered by the Parami Institute of Continuing Education are not licensed by the Higher Education Licensure Commission. The courses are non-credit bearing, and most of the courses are offered free of charge.