Making MOOCs on a Budget – Massive Open Online COMMUNITY (mooC)

We are now in week 5 of the third delivery of the 6-week course, Making MOOCs on a Budget. However, in a way, rather than coming to an end, we are approaching a new beginning!

Phase 1

Up to now, we have presented materials which we consider useful for anyone who wants to make a MOOC (on a budget). We have used quizzes with multiple attempts possible as a tool to help you know if you have retained the information or if you need to go over it again.  The discussions aimed to encourage you to reflect a little on some of the big challenges you may face as you move forward with your project.

Phase 2

All the materials will still be available until 28 February, during which time the MOOC will also continue as a self-paced option. However, in the next phase, which starts on 29 November, for those of you who have gone through some/all of the materials, the ‘C’ in MOOC, will be more about ‘Community’ than ‘Course’.

Harnessing the community

A lot of people with different backgrounds, expertise and experience have come together because of a shared interest in making an online course.  This community is a wonderful resource, and we would now like to invite you to harness it, as you move into the next phase of actually developing your own course.

In order for this next phase to be successful, we are including in this week’s newsletter some guidance on how to benefit from being part of a community of this type.

Find your group!

A first step is to update your profile. This will help you to identify and connect with people who could be useful and supportive in your project. For example, if you are an educator, with little expertise in technical matters, you might find it useful to reach out to someone with these skills, and vice versa. Likewise, it might be interesting to connect with people in the same country as you, or with people who are developing MOOCs on a topic similar to yours, or people who are developing a course for a similar target audience – it’s up to you.

Update your profile

A suggested template for you profile is this (you are not bound by this – the intended purpose is simply to standardize the format so as to help people quickly scan profiles easily to find what they consider to be a good match)

1.    My Sector

2.    Country (where you are based/working)

3.    My area(s) of expertise

4.    Area(s) I need help in

5.    Type of project I am working on (MOOC, OOC, etc.)

6.    My target learner group (s)

7.    Anything else.

Find out how to do this here: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-1865

Ask us anything!

On 28 November at 5 PM (Dublin time), we will host a conversation to start planning your MOOC project! All are welcome to join at this link: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/1412/pages/final-discussion-webinar-live-emerging-issues.

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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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Third delivery of Making MOOCs on a Budget: Week 1 discussion highlights

The third delivery of ‘Making MOOCs on a Budget’ got off to a good start last week. Participants from all over the world came together to introduce themselves and get started on the 6-week course aimed at building the knowledge and skills needed to make a MOOC – or an online course.

home-pageLearning Objects

Brian kicked off the MOOC in his video giving an overview of ‘learning objects’– elements that can be used in a MOOC for learning – videos, discussion forums, peer assessments and others. Participants in the discussion following the video shared their views on the various objects and offered some interesting tips based on their own experience.

There was a lot of interest in the use of videos, with acknowledgement that good audio is essential. Length of reading material, optimisation of materials for small screens, issues of accessibility through use of subtitling, the use of discussion forums and peer assessment – these are some of the issues that came up in the lively discussion.

Support for learners was also raised as something needed to help people adapt to learning from videos, with one participant proposing that learners should be advised to include video time markers in their notes so that they can easily return to parts of the video they may not have been clear on or want to see again.  The full discussion can be found here.

Do you need to plan your MOOC?

We also asked people to give their opinion on the statement: “You don’t need to plan a MOOC. If you have some experience in teaching, you can quickly build a MOOC instinctively”. The discussion drew quite a few responses, with everyone (!) disagreeing with the statement.

The general consensus was that, though people who have teaching experience may find it quicker or easier to plan a MOOC than those who have not taught before, planning simply cannot be avoided – as one participant put it: ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’. Identifying clear learning objectives and matching them with meaningful learning resources were listed by many as key to a successful MOOC, while others stressed also the importance of selecting only the most relevant resources from the vast amount of content available on the internet and other places.

People also generally agreed on the importance of designing a MOOC to meet learners’ needs rather than simply producing a course based on the instructors’ expertise. This raised an interesting question of how to plan and adapt a MOOC, where very often it’s impossible to know who your learners are until it actually goes live. In a classroom setting, it’s possible to adjust style and content on the spot, but while some tweaking may be possible by instructors during a MOOC, the entire course should ideally be more-or-less finalized before opening. Some interesting suggestions to allow instructors to adapt to learners’ needs during the MOOC included doing a few test runs to get an understanding of the needs of the types of learners who are attracted to your MOOC and make improvements in subsequent iterations until you feel the style and content matches the diverse needs and expectations of your group. Including live webinars throughout the MOOC was proposed as another way of building in flexibility to address unmet or emerging learner needs on the courses. The full discussion can be found here.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussions!

If you haven’t registered yet, you can still do so here  – it will only take a couple of hours to catch up and join this week’s topic on selecting the tools you need to develop your MOOC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Community Learning – Stephen Downes

Thanks to Stephen for his excellent presentation on Community Learning to kick off our “Extended Virtual Symposium”.  He has posted the slides and his own recording (via Youtube Live) on his website: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/403 – why not join the discussion on Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8335390/8335390-6192671200087408643

Adobe Connect Recording: http://itsligo.adobeconnect.com/p6usf88edqn/

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Third Delivery of Making MOOCs on a Budget starts October 18th, 2016

The new and even more improved version of our MOOC “Making MOOCs on a Budget” launches on the 18th of October.  We have moved it to canvas.net, a free platform that anyone can use.  The course is also extended to 6 weeks to give participants the time to get the tools they need and try some of the techniques for building their own MOOCs.  To find out more about the MOOC and our project, check out our homepage at moocs4all.eu and you can register here for the next delivery.

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moocs4all Extended Virtual Symposium

Eventbrite - moocs4all Extended Virtual Symposium

In conjunction with the third delivery of our MOOC “Making MOOCs on a Budget”, we will be hosting an Extended Virtual Symposium, which will consist of a series of six weekly webinars starting on Thursday the 13th of October.  The theme of the symposium “Lowering the cost of education” and the six webinars will be presented by individuals who are making significant progress in the provision of free and low-cost accredited learning available online.  The schedule is as follows (details below – all times are Brussels local time):

  • Thu Oct 13 at 4pm – Stephen Downes – National Research Council, Canada (Recording)
  • Thu Oct 20 at 4pm – Andreas Wittke – Luebeck University of Applied Sciences, Germany (Recording)
  • Thu Oct 27 at 4pm – Donald Clark – PlanB Learning, UK. (Recording)
  • Thu Nov 3 at 10am – Wayne Mackintosh – Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand (About OERu, Recording)
  • Thu Nov 10 at 4pm – Paul LeBlanc – Southern New Hampshire University, USA
  • Thu Nov 17 at 4pm – Mike Feerick – ALISON.com, Ireland.

Eventbrite - moocs4all Extended Virtual Symposium

Further  details on the webinars and speakers:

Thu Oct 13 at 4pm(Brussels) – Stephen Downes, National Research Council, Canada

Title: Community Learning

stephendownesStephen Downes is a specialist in online learning technology and new media. Through a 25 year career in the field Downes has developed and deployed a series of progressively more innovative technologies, beginning with multi-user domains (MUDs) in the 1990s, open online communities in the 2000s, and personal learning environments in the 2010s. Downes is perhaps best known for his daily newsletter, OLDaily, which is distributed by web, email and RSS to thousands of subscribers around the world, and as the originator of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), is a leading voice in online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software. He is known as a leading proponent of connectivism, a theory describing how people know and learn using network processes. Hence he has also published in the areas of logic and reasoning, 21st century skills, and critical literacies. Downes is also recognized as a leading voice in the open education movement, having developed early work in learning objects to a world-leading advocacy of open educational resources and free learning. Downes is widely recognized for his deep, passionate and articulate exposition of a range of insights melding theories of education and philosophy, new media and computer technology. He has published hundreds of articles online and in print and has presented around the world to academic conferences in dozens of countries on five continents.

Adobe Connect Recording: http://itsligo.adobeconnect.com/p6usf88edqn/

He has posted the slides and his own recording (via Youtube Live) on his website: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/403 – why not join the discussion on Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8335390/8335390-6192671200087408643

Thu Oct 20 at 4pm(Brussels) – Andreas Wittke, Luebeck University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Title: MOOCing in Action – How to launch 25 MOOCs in 18 months

andreaswittke

Andreas Wittke is the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) of the Institute for Digital Learning at Luebeck University of Applied Sciences. He has been involved in the development and implementation of numerous educational technologies provided by oncampus (a corporation completely owned by Luebeck University of Applied Sciences). He is also the founder of the innovative interactive MOOC-platform mooin and the cloud-based ebook platform LOOP.  He is in charge of the implementation of the open source learning platform Moodle, the YouTube Channel with a large number of OER videos. Andreas is also the project leader of two state-funded MOOC projects.  He is a well-recognized keynote speaker at national and international ed-tech conferences.

Andreas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering with a specialisation in Computer Science and joined oncampus in 2001 as an Instructional Designer. He developed many online courses before he became an expert for Learning Management Systems. Given his extended experience in developing, teaching and implementing online courses, Andreas is an expert for the management of integrated e-learning workflows, regarding technology and didactics.

Adobe Connect Recording: http://itsligo.adobeconnect.com/p2ns9rs79l5/ 

Thu Oct 27 at 4pm(Brussels) – Donald Clark, PlanB Learning, UK.

Title: Low cost learning and assessment through the use of AI.

Donald will explain why AI has a lot to offer in lifting MOOCs out of their linear, video and text slumber with effortful learning.

donald-300x169Donald Clark is an EdTech entrepreneur. He was CEO and one of the original founders of Epic Group plc, which established itself as the leading company in the UK online learning market, floated on the Stock Market in 1996 and sold in 2005. As well as being the CEO of Wildfire Ltd. he also invests in, and advises, EdTech companies.  Describing himself as ‘free from the tyranny of employment’, he is a board member of Cogbooks, LearningPool, WildFire and Deputy Chair of Brighton Dome & Arts Festival. He is also a Visiting Professor and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).  He has worked in schools, vocational, higher, corporate and adult learning, delivering real projects to real learners. These include change management, strategy, tool selection, content design and build.  Donald has over 30 years experience in online learning, games, simulations, semantic, adaptive, social media, mobile learning, virtual reality and AI projects. He has designed, delivered and advised on online learning for many global, public and private organisations. He is an evangelist for the use of technology in learning and has won many awards, including the first ‘Outstanding Achievement in E-learning Award’ and ‘Best AIM Stock Market Company’.  An award winning speaker at national and international conferences, he has delivered keynotes in Europe. US, Africa, Australia, Middle and Far East.

…… also a regular (and controversial) blogger (10 years+) on learning technology, his iconoclastic pieces on learning theory, MOOCs, VR, AI, Robinson, Mitra and others, attracted lots of attention. His series on learning theorists is a valuable open resource. 

Adobe Connect Recording + link to resources from Donald on AI 

Thu Nov 3 at 10am (Brussels) – Wayne Mackintosh, Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand

Title: “OERu – Low cost, low risk but high impact innovation”

wayne_mackintosh_yale_2010Wayne Mackintosh is the founding director of the OER Foundation headquartered at Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand. He is coordinating the establishment of the OERu, an international innovation partnership which aims to widen access to more affordable education for all. Wayne holds the UNESCO / ICDE Chair in OER at Otago Polytechnic and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the OER Foundation. He is a strategy innovator with a passion for open sourcing education.  Wayne is a committed advocate and user of free software for education. He was the founding project leader of New Zealand’s eLearning XHTML editor (eXe) project (www.exelearning.org) and founder of WikiEducator (www.WikiEducator.org) – an international community of educators collaborating on the development of free/libre teaching materials in support of all national curricula.  Wayne has extensive international experience in educational technology, learning design and the theory and practice of open and distance learning (ODL). Previously, he was Education Specialist, eLearning and ICT policy at the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organisation based in Vancouver, Canada. Before joining COL he was Associate Professor and founding director of the Centre for Flexible and Distance Learning (CFDL) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. At the University of Auckland, he was tasked with eLearning strategy and leading CFDL’s professional staff team. Prior to moving to New Zealand he spent eleven years working at the University of South Africa (UNISA), a distance learning institution and one of the world’s mega-universities. Wayne has participated in a range of international consultancies and projects including work for COL, the International Monetary Fund, UNESCO and the World Bank. Wayne is a member of the Advisory Board of the Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons New Zealand and the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education. Wayne resigned as the holder of the COL Chair in OER, a position he held from 2012 – 2015 to focus full-time on the implementation of the OERu. Previously, Wayne served on Editorial Board of Open Learning for more than a decade, but now focuses on open access and open education research efforts.  (About OERu, Recording of webinar)

Thu Nov 10 at 4pm(Brussels) – Paul LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire University, USA

Title: “You Complete Me”: How Competency Based Models and Assessment Can Save the MOOC 

paulleblancDr. Paul J. LeBlanc is President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).  Under the 13 years of Paul’s direction, SNHU has grown from 2500 students to over 80,000, is the second largest non-profit provider of online higher education in the country, and the first to have a full competency-based degree program untethered to the credit hour or classes approved by a regional accreditor and the US Department of Education.  In 2012, the university was #12 on Fast Company magazine’s “World’s Fifty Most Innovative Companies” list and was the only university included.  Paul won the 2015 NH Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Forbes Magazine has listed him as one of its 15 “Classroom Revolutionaries” and one of the “most influential people in higher education” for 2016.  Washington Monthly named him one of America’s ten most innovative university presidents.  He most recently served as Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary Ted Mitchell at the US Department of Education, working on competency-based education, new accreditation pathways, and innovation.  He also serves on the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) and on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce (and served on its Committee on Quality in Undergraduate Education).  From 1993 to 1996 he directed a technology start up for Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company, was President of Marlboro College (VT) from 1996 to 2003, and became President of SNHU in 2003.  His wife Patricia is an attorney and their daughters Emma and Hannah are doctoral students. Annie, their black Labrador Retriever, studies sleeping on the couch and ways to steal food from the counter tops.

Thu Nov 17 at 4pm(Brussels) – Mike Feerick, ALISON.com, Ireland.

Title: TBA

mikefeerickMike Feerick is Founder & CEO of ALISON.com, a global leader and innovator in free online certified learning. Focused on workplace skills training, ALISON has 7 million registered learners and over 800,000 graduates worldwide. Founded in 2007, ALISON is recognised as the first MOOC provider, (Massive Open Online Course), pioneering a movement which today is revolutionizing global access to education and workplace skills training and employment opportunity.  ALISON promotes free learning and certification through on-the-spot assessment making it possible to test anyone, on anything, at anytime, anywhere via the web.  Mike is an internationally recognised social entrepreneur receiving a Diploma Award from UNESCO for services to free education in 2010, an Ashoka Globaliser Fellowship in 2011, an Arthur Guinness Fund Awardee (2012), and a WISE Award in 2013 (Qatar Foundation). He is the founder & Chairman of Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO), an Irish government-sponsored non-profit Diaspora Initiative reunifying the 70 million people of Irish descent worldwide. He holds a BBS (UL) 89 and MBA (Harvard) 94.

Eventbrite - moocs4all Extended Virtual Symposium

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Retaining learners on MOOCs – Part 3: Content, assignments, and accreditation

In the last posts on the topic of retention, we spoke about the reality of having too little time to spend on the course, and the importance of feeling part of a learning community. In this post, we look at what people have said through the discussions and email outreach, on the importance of creating engaging material, useful assessments and meaningful accreditation.

Content is king

@srjf  believes that ‘if the content is exceptional in terms of relevant, interesting, novel, trailblazing etc, this should enhance the retention’ and also adds that it is helpful for content to be marked as ‘mandatory, optional or additional to give the learner an indication of what they have to “read”, may “read” or could read if super-interested’. A number of people on the ‘making Moocs on a budget’ course commented on the relevance and usefulness of the materials presented. The combination of videos with quizzes were received well. I wonder if anyone has noticed that we have actually taken some of the suggestions we got from participants, and developed (so far) two comic strips on the last two newsletters aimed at getting people to think about organizing their time [eepurl.com/b49p4b][1] and  [eepurl.com/b537xX][2]. @chrisjangelov’s suggestion to ‘lighten up’ material reminded us of using the great (and free version available!) Pixton tool to present information in a lighter/more entertaining way, that hopefully gets the message across just as well.

 Making courses accessible

This issue of making courses accessible to all is one we had in mind when we introduced subtitles to the videos – keeping in mind that we had participants on the course from 47 countries – not all of them native English speakers, we felt this was a help, and some participants commented on this.

Speaking to Gerry Hegarty, at the IT Sligo about the need to make courses accessible to all types of learners, he shared with us the principles for universal design, which is something people might like to refer to when designing their own MOOCs.

“A universal design approach to teaching and learning holds the promise of creating more inclusive learning environments for all students of differing abilities including those with disabilities”. (Ref. The Centre for Universal Design (CUD)) The seven principles of universal design can be found here.

Assignments

Related to the issue of accessibility, one contributor added that short, frequent quizzes can work with a variety of learner profiles, including those with learning disabilities, also saying that the key is a short feedback loop, particularly when there is a feeling of distance.

@John_Lawrence made a point about using assignments which relate to learners’ real life – if the course is viewed as a real aid to doing what we have to do anyway, it may be considered higher priority, than learning something that is far-removed from our lives, i.e. the assignment must be authentic and help us to achieve our real-world goals.  Is there something that can be done to ensure this is the case? Initial/ongoing surveys? Encouraging people to find learners with common challenges and shared goals who can collaborate in virtual teams to achieve more together?

Accreditation

@Afisch mentions something that many others have flagged over the past weeks – the importance of getting a ‘reward’ that means something – it’s great to get a badge that can be shared on facebook or linkedin, but does this really matter to your learners, or to their current or future employer? Another contributor said,’ the course must accord with the educational standards’, and @CathyPayne says that apart from personal determination, the biggest motivator to complete any training course may be the recognition by management of the value of the content to person’s role and my ongoing professional development – will it be recognised by the learner’s employer? How can accreditation of MOOCs be made more meaningful? (the comic in last week’s newsletter was intended to trigger some thoughts on this). Is a big brand certificate equally useful to everyone?  For working professionals, is there a need to involve employers to make sure the materials presented are in line with what they require their employees to know, or establish partnerships with relevant professional associations to seek accreditation that will count for something?

Thanks to the named contributors above and others who requested not to be named.

This post is one of a series of three posts on the topic of learner retention. The other posts can be found here:
Part 1: Making time for MOOCs
Part 2: Community

Your thoughts welcome in comments section below, or on the MOOC at this link, or you could also join a conversation on our linkedin group

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Retaining learners on MOOCs – Part 2: Community

Online learning through MOOCs is great! It’s flexible, convenient, you can access good quality material – often for free, sometimes get a certificate to demonstrate your learning – so why do people drop out so easily? In the last post on the topic of retention, we spoke about the reality of having too little time to spend on the course. In this post, we look at what people have said through the discussions and email outreach, on the need for a social component to MOOC-learning – the importance of feeling part of a learning community.

Alone on a MOOC

The reality is that MOOCs can easily become an arduous task of consuming content from your computer screen – on your own! The social part of bricks-and-mortar classes is absent – the chats between class, conversations over lunch, cups of tea to discuss study or anything else. This is an important part of the learning experience, but how can it be replicated online? It’s great to have the study material, fantastic to have access to tutors, but how can we avoid delivering MOOCs that simply bore our learners?

Studying alone, together

Many contributors to the discussions agreed that a regular newsletter is a good idea as a way to feel part of a community.  From our experience on the Making MOOCs on a budget MOOC, we agree – it’s something that doesn’t take a huge amount of time or effort, but it offers an opportunity to highlight different activities on the course and even introduce an element of storytelling (featured learners, Q&A with course leaders etc.) which help to humanize the learning experience.

The newsletter is definitely a great communications tool on a MOOC – it’s a useful communications tool to stay engaged with people who may have registered but never made it to the course, or to encourage people who have fallen behind. However,  it should be noted that it is a one-to-many type of communication – something like the teacher talking to the entire class. Is this enough? Do students want to talk to each other to really feel the social connection? What can we do to create a virtual learning community that provides a satisfying social environment for learners who are essentially studying alone?

 Discussion forums

Many people who decide to do MOOCs, are confident using technology and social media, and may have shaken off any inhibitions about laying bare their views and opinions in an open discussion forum. But many are not so comfortable. One of the big fears people claim to have about participating in discussion forums is that they will be criticized or ridiculed for their comment. While clearly communicated user-guidelines could do much to help this, assuring people that disrespectful comments will be deleted, and other measures taken to ensure a positive and constructive learning environment is maintained – what else can be done to help people gain confidence to establish their online presence?

Building a learning community

One contributor[i] proposed to invite/urge students to ask questions, and to reward students when they answer questions of fellow student in a right way, maybe with bonus points for the module the question is about. This could achieve two things: it gives new MOOCers a relatively easy and low-risk option for participating in the discussion forum, from which point they have a greater chance of gaining confidence to eventually express themselves more freely. It also gives greater responsibility to the keener, more motivated learners, who take on the role of ‘peer facilitators’.  This could, in fact, result in greater overall engagement, as studies show that people feel more comfortable engaging with peers than with tutors. Would it be worth considering to establish a peer facilitator programme in the MOOC? Maybe not everyone enrolled on the course knows everything, but many are knowledgeable and experienced in one or more areas. Would this be a good way of sharing the knowledge, and as the contributor says, also relieving the pressure on tutors to answer every question? A contributor[ii] proposed to provide cases to discuss or expand on, relevant to the knowledge provided in the MOOC, saying that this may be a more easy engagement starter than just providing empty space.

Another contributor talks about using Wikis or Wikipedia which lets everyone contribute to the body of knowledge, also allowing students to have a real-world or authentic audience for their work. This could also build engagement if learners realize that they can go back and re-visit their thinking across the course, and can also feel less alone – being part of a collaborative, knowledge-building project.

A point was made [iii] on the importance of being able to connect directly with other people on the course – some platforms allow this while others don’t – is this something that could/should influence the choice of platform we use to run our course on?

All of the comments  are very much in line with research which suggests that when learners feel a sense of belonging in the course, they  report greater enjoyment, reduced anxiety and are less inclined to withdraw from the course. http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2014/09/even-in-a-mooc-students-want-to-belong/

Humanizing the learning experience

The question of ‘humanizing’ the learning experience is interesting – is this really important? How useful would it be to include a mandatory first assignment that requires people to fill in their profile page and upload a photo with some info on their interests etc. so that people can identify other learners with shared interests – possibly work on peer assessments with them – which could result in more authentic projects that solve their real-world problems?

In our first newsletter, we asked people to upload their profile pictures so that we could take a class photo! We had no uptake – was the timing wrong? Do people need more guidance on how to actually do this? Was it simply not a good idea?

Your thoughts welcome in comments section below, or on the MOOC through the ‘comment’ links in the post or you could also join a conversation on our linkedin group

This post is one of a series of three on the topic of learner retention – you can find the other posts here:
Part 1: Making time for MOOCs
Part 3: Content, assignments, and accreditation

Thanks to the contributors to this discussion – some named below – others who requested not to be named.

[i] @PeterKorevaar

[ii] @chrisjangelov

[iii] @John_Lawrence

 

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Retaining learners on MOOCS – Part 1: Making time for MOOCs

Discussions on the MOOC platform and some questionnaires sent to a number of course participants, have provided lots to think about on the the issue of retaining learners on MOOCs. Looking at the contributions so far, it would seem that people have flagged a range of challenges, and possible solutions which could be grouped mainly into three areas. This post focuses on the first of these – lack of time.

short comic week 4 2.png

Lack of time was the most cited obstacle to doing the course – people spoke about busy work lives, with travel commitments. Many say that any available ‘free time’ is usually needed to catch up on emails and for other competing priorities.

A number of people could see clear benefits from the course, but in some cases, said they found it very difficult to allocate time to it ahead of more urgent priorities, stating that they did not have an immediate need for the skills (though also acknowledging that they would, at some time in the future)

Organization & Learner Support

It’s easy to register for a MOOC – but it’s substantially more difficult to get through the work. Though efforts are usually made to present materials in a more interesting and engaging way, with videos, quizzes, etc., courses don’t do themselves (!) and busy people need to figure out how and when they can make the time to do the course. One contributor[i] pointed out that we need to encourage students to view the MOOC the same way they would a scheduled class- you must attend and put the work in if you want to get the reward afterwards. We can easily forget about the need to help learners get organized – but this is key to successful online learning.

Another contributor[ii] proposed that learners need to be told how much time each section will take so that they can plan their studies. In our MOOC, we suggested that it would require an estimated 2 – 4 hour time commitment per week, but rather than estimating just the weekly time commitment, it could be useful to give a more detailed outline of the time required for each activity in each section – a type of map of each section to help learners plan 10 minutes here and there, or larger chunks of time when needed.

We learnt about the experience of another contributor[iii] in getting learners to submit a study plan and fill it in as they progress. This could go a long way to getting learners to organize themselves for a successful learning experience, helping them also to get a greater sense of accomplishment/satisfaction as they see how they are moving through the course – maybe even reinforcing their motivation to continue. Doing an exercise at the beginning of the course to schedule in the required time every day for the duration of the course could be very useful and might make the difference between moving smoothly through the course or falling behind and eventually giving up.  I wonder if it would be useful to develop some sort of template for learners to fill in as the first homework assignment, as suggested by another contributor?

 Just-in-time MOOC design

Is just-in-time learning more workable for busy professionals? We talk a lot about the flexibility and convenience of online learning – people can do the course at 2 o’ clock in the afternoon or 4 o’ clock in the morning – or any other time – as long as they complete each section within a given time frame, they can choose when to do it. Is this enough? How does this meet the needs of people who are correcting exam papers during the course, or attending a conference, or any other longer-term obligation that makes it impossible for them to keep up? Brian[iv] shared something he had read about MOOCs that claimed continuously open access MOOCs have better completion rates than MOOCs with fixed dates – though talking with him this week, he noted the difficulty of doing assessments in this format. How about rolling 2-week courses which would help people to pace themselves, but still work as part of a cohort, and allow them the flexibility to choose when to actually do it?  One of the course team[vi] provides some evidence that this is a model that can hold potential – with the first Udacity MOOCs (including his own) which operated (and still operates) without a fixed schedule, and the fact that Coursera has introduced some MOOCs that are “self-paced” and/or use monthly cohorts.  What could be done about the wealth of information and experience in the discussion forums, which would be lost at the end of each two-week period? Would it work to transfer all discussions to e.g. a linkedin group or snapchat so that knowledge builds up and the community is sustained after the end of the course? In this way, as suggested by another contributor[vii], the social media network could be linked to the MOOC platform and also become an instrument of recruitment.

Another suggestion[viii]  was made, to use the analytics function of the MOOC platform to identify people who have been inactive for a longer period of time, and send them a personal email to try to re-engage them. This would be ideal, and may work well for small groups of learners, but could it work if we are talking about thousands of learners? If we could manage to get learners organized at the beginning of the course, through the suggestions above, could we assume that the number of people who need to be brought back would be lower – and possibly the personalized outreach will be more manageable?

Your thoughts welcome in comments section below, or on the MOOC at this link, or you could also join a conversation on our linkedin group

Thanks to contributors to this discussion and emails sent for the people below and others who asked not to be named.

There are two more posts on this topic which you can access here Part 2: Community
Part 3: Content, assignments, and accreditation

[i] @eshinners

[ii] @PeterKorevaar

[iii] @sparks

[iv] @brianmmulligan

[vi] @JoernLoviscach

[vii] @OlgaUshakova

[viii] @PeterKorevaar

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What I’ve learned about low-cost production from teaching about low-cost production.

Constantly developing learning technologies mean that there is always something to learn about.  Not just about the new technologies, but also about new production and pedagogical techniques that are made possible by these new technologies.  In the “Making MOOCs on a Budget” course (moocs4all.eu), I have been privileged to work not only with some great co-instructors, but also with very well informed participants and as a result have learned much and improved my own techniques.  I won’t name names, but here are some of the things that I have learned over the last number of weeks:

Content development tools.

Firstly I learned that I need to get my Microsoft Office up to date to take advantage of MS Office Mix which, from demonstrations I have seen, makes it very easy to develop online videos from the types of content you already have or are comfortable developing.  Zaption seems to be a fantastic tool for creating video lessons consisting of existing youtube videos and segments of videos in which you can embed quizzes and even have branching based on the responses to quizzes.  This free tool (service?) seems quite powerful and relatively easy to use.

Production and Editing

You may have noticed that the instructors use varying styles for video production and also achieve varying standards of production quality.  I learned many techniques from the master during the course (you know who I’m talking about), including lighting, talking to camera, repeating after errors, as how to edit afterwards.  From another team member I learned how to add text to a head-shot video and from others how effective a conversational style can be.  I didn’t get the time to put them into practice, but my videos will be better in the future.

Assessment

I have used multiple choice quizzes for many years, but even during my research I learned a few new tricks.  However, I’m relatively new to peer assessment and finally I got around to looking at the use of Rubrics in more detail.  These are very useful in assessment in general but they are crucial to the success of peer assessment.

Retention

A great new idea for this second delivery of the MOOC was the idea of a weekly newsletter.  It seems to be a great way of giving an overview of the week gone by and the coming week and in doing so draws people who are falling away back in as well as generating a little excitement about the upcoming content.  This has received great positive feedback from participants.

So, all in all, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve learned a lot.
Brian Mulligan, IT Sligo.

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