OC, NextThought partner on innovative computer science course

NextThought CEO Ken Parker with OC computer science students.
NextThought CEO Ken Parker with OC computer science students.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – A new hybrid course in Oklahoma Christian University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science opened to rave student reviews in the fall.

OC partnered with premium online learning solutions provider NextThought, LLC, to offer students this hybrid course, a combination of online and in-class delivery.

“We achieved a high level of student engagement. Students liked the approach and felt like they learned more about computer science,” said David North, OC’s director of computer science advancement. “I believe using this approach allowed the class to contain twice as much material as would have been presented in the traditional delivery model. We must keep finding better ways to deliver the ever-expanding world of computer science.”

Most of the 35 students enrolled in the Software Engineering I course were freshmen. This unique educational experience was the first of several new courses in OC’s newly revised Computer Science curriculum.

“At first, a course that was both online and in-person seemed odd, but it was actually one of the best class experiences I’ve had,” sophomore Andrew Vines said. “Everything was laid out intuitively by Professor North, so it was easy to know what was required of me for each class period. Not only that, NextThought was actually fun to use, a first for any online course tool I’ve used … and I’ve used a lot.”

The course featured about 150 graded assignments, more than 80 short videos to view and 50 short articles to read outside of class. In addition to the software features, the students benefited from weekly online discussions with 30 OC alumni on topics ranging from cybersecurity to web app development.

“I’m excited about how OC is preparing students to embrace learning not just in the traditional academic sense, but also in the ability to learn from your peers, colleagues and the computer science community as a whole,” said OC alumnus Spencer Goad, senior software developer at American Energy Partners. “The opportunity for students to engage with alumni and ask questions about how the concepts taught in the classroom apply in the ‘real world’ was amazing. And it wasn’t just the students who were learning things; it was cool to see how my fellow alumni are using the same technologies and methodologies in their various jobs that I am.”

All of the online course content and the support of the interaction between the students and alumni were enabled by NextThought’s platform.

“The experience was fantastic and dynamic, from start to finish,” junior Jonathan Troyer said. “I honestly appreciated the hard work put into the content and the hard work put into presenting the content. The level of accessibility was amazing and helped immensely. The fluid structure of the course helped me stay focused and on track.”

The NextThought partnership is the latest initiative to connect OC computer science students with local industry. Students in OC’s advanced Software Engineering courses have developed projects for Hobby Lobby and Adfitech in recent years.

“OC’s focus on connected learning in and out of the classroom has created a unique and more productive learning experience. This is a special project with exciting potential, consistent with OC’s values and strengths for online learning,” NextThought co-founder and chief executive officer Ken Parker said. “We are social learners, but many online experiences do not connect us to other people or content in a meaningful way. The computer science course has connected students to layers of community that will help maximize the education experience.”

Founded in 2011, NextThought works with a number of leading universities and professional education organizations around the world. The Oklahoma-based company employs approximately 40 developers, learning designers, content specialists and video production professionals. Parker is a 1983 summa cum laude graduate of Oklahoma Christian and an executive committee member on OC’s Board of Trustees.

Oklahoma Christian is ranked as one of the best universities in the western United States by The Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. A recent study rated Oklahoma Christian as one of the best higher education values in Oklahoma, citing the university’s low net price combined with OC graduates’ high starting salaries.

OC offers undergraduate programs in more than 80 fields of study, an undergraduate Honors Program, and graduate programs in accountancy, business administration, computer science, engineering, Christian ministry, divinity, and theological studies.