MOOCs rely heavily on interaction among participants: Bowman said he's more of a discussion moderator than a teacher. At the start of a class students will watch one of his videos, which last 10 to 25 minutes.
The lectures include questions and talking points, and students use the website or Twitter to discuss the ideas brought up during the class. They can ask questions of other students or Bowman during the event.
Everyone benefits from that discussion, including Bowman. It's a way for him to see how what he teaches is being used in the real world.
"You have a family of four and have four kids on Facebook. You probably have some unique experiences that I don't have," Bowman said. "In a way it really is 'Hey, come play with Dr. Bowman for a week.'"
He's one of four professors offering a MOOC through WVU. Starting Monday, Bowman's class lasts six days. The first two are devoted to lecture and discussion.
On Wednesday Bowman plans a "tweet up" during which students can interact with him on Twitter for a live office-hour session. More class is slated for Thursday and Friday, with another tweet up rounding things out on Saturday.
People don't need to "attend" class each day; the information is available in a variety of mediums on the course website, Bowman said.
Three other professors are planning similar courses in February. Starting Feb. 11, students can learn about online relationships in a course entitled "Love at First Like." A class on cyber bullying is slated for the week of Feb. 18, and a course called "Understanding and Conquering Technology Overload" is scheduled to start Feb. 25.
The courses are free because they don't cost WVU anything apart from time, Bowman said. Bowman said the courses are work intensive, but they go toward the idea that public universities exist to serve the community as a whole. Tuition helps the university stay afloat, and so the university serves its students. But so do tax dollars, Bowman said. The courses are an experiment, but Bowman is optimistic they'll be a success. He had heard several hundred people already were kicking around the idea of registering, including some from South America and Asia.
He's happy about the international connection but hopes students considering college in West Virginia check out the courses as well.
"The kids of coal miner families aren't going into the mine," Bowman said. "You're seeing this huge shift in how people make their money. There's huge disconnect between Morgantown and the rest of the state. This closes that disconnect."
Anyone interested in participating can register at WVUCommMOOC.org. During the courses, Bowman and students will use #WVUCommMOOC for their Twitter discussions.