Making MOOCs on a Budget: Discussion highlights

We are now in week 4 of the “Making MOOCs on a Budget” course. If you haven’t started yet, you are still welcome to come on board, as all the materials are available and discussion forums for all weeks are still open for contributions. Some highlights from the discussion forums in the past weeks are in this post.

From traditional teaching to MOOCs

An interesting question was raised on whether it is really useful to simply record face-to-face lectures and, as one participant said “throw …lecture videos onto the internet” as a low-cost MOOC. A point was made that maybe this is good enough – as at least it allows anyone with an interest in the topic to have access to the lecture, even if the learning experience isn’t as good as a more highly produced video developed specifically for delivery as a MOOC.

However, this also raises the question as to whether it is realistic to expect lecturers who have used traditional techniques throughout their career to make the (considerable) leap to doing things in a very different style that is more in line with expectations of MOOC participants.

Is some support needed to build lecturers’ confidence and skills in transitioning to MOOC development? It was suggested that flipping classrooms could be an interim step. Lecturers who are encouraged and supported to record simple short videos for students to study before coming to class, using class time for more discussion/problem solving activities would be able to ‘practice’ making MOOC-style videos for groups in a more controlled environment. Flipping classrooms might also allow lecturers to build skills and confidence in using other MOOC-style features including quiz questions, discussion forums etc., testing what works and what doesn’t. The transition from tried and tested flipped classroom to full MOOC development may be easier than going directly from traditional delivery – and may be perceived by many educators as a safer transition to massive and open. (full discussion here)

If you can’t afford the right tools, then don’t waste your time trying to make a MOOC!

In week 2’s discussion – people were asked their opinion on the statement “You get what you pay for –  If you want a high-quality MOOC, you need to pay for the equipment that will produce high-quality content. If you can’t afford the right tools, then don’t waste your time trying!” Overall, people agreed that expensive equipment will not improve bad content. Rather than focusing only on the bells and whistles possible with expensive tools and equipment, efforts should be concentrated on making content more engaging and useful. One participant recalled participating in a MOOC where the most memorable aspect of the course was the level of care that had been put into the course development; and the quality of the teacher/presenter.

The real focus of MOOC development should be on providing a rich learning experience, with one participant suggesting developing content that includes a range of voices and perspectives on a topic – not just the opinion of one subject matter expert. Another participant added that while it is possible to ‘get away’ with the free or trial versions for a while some low-level investment is necessary, but this could be limited to an investment in the low 100s. The general consensus was that the most important technical element to get right is the audio quality of videos – if this is bad, people will switch off.

Another issue raised was the value of building greater collaboration between educators and supportive IT people who understand the technology and can provide guidance. Perspectives of technical staff and educators are often quite different. Institutionalizing collaborative MOOC development projects which bring the two skills sets together on projects, building a common understanding of the pedagogical requirements of a MOOCs and using the skills and knowledge of IT people to find alternative technical solutions to those generally associated with expensive tools may result in lower-cost improvements to production quality. (full discussion here)  

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