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.


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.


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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Low-cost video production – some words from our “world leading” expert

If you think that videos will be an important part your your online course you are in for a treat this week in our MOOC.  (If you have not enrolled yet, you’re still not too late) We are lucky to have on our team Jörn Loviscach who is a leader in the development of high quality, low-cost online instructional videos in the German language.  Jörn  has posted more than 3,000 instructional videos to his Youtube channel , and with almost 55,000 subscribers, the number of views currently stands at 20,916,939.

Here, Jorn talks about his experience in using videos in his teaching.

Jorn, you have a full time job at the Fachhochschule in Bielefeld, and you said in your introductory video that you don’t get additional support from your institution to make the videos you post on YouTube – so what drives you to do this?

First, I’ve been “flipping” my teaching for five years now. My students can watch the videos any time they like, but before the schedule. This relieves me from covering the curriculum from A to Z in class. Rather, I can work with my students on smaller and on larger problems. Second, it’s of course inspiring to see that people like what I do. In the regular university system, it’s rare to experience such an appreciation for one’s teaching.

How do you think your videos add to the learning experience of your students at Fachhochschule Bielefeld?

Over the years, I have created a pile of videos showing worked examples. These are very welcome to prepare for exams. (Even though, admittedly, many students watch these videos at a 200% speed setting in YouTube.) To the students, this use of the videos may be more important than my flipped teaching: Flipped teaching can be strenuous and frustrating for both sides. It’s much easier to give a traditional lecture and make believe that you have taught and that your students have learned.

Do you know who else watches your videos? Who are they? Where are they from? What do they get from them? Why do you think they watch them?

Judging from the age range and from comments posted, the largest part of the audience consists of students in STEM fields. A minor part consists of students in the final years of school. And then there’s pensioners who want to learn something or help their grandchildren in school, there’s engineers needing some tricks for the jobs, and so on.

What are your top three tips to anyone who wants to make instructional videos on a budget?

First, use recordings with a live audience to be more focused and get immediate feedback. Second, ensure that the audio quality is pristine; however, the video quality, drawings, etc. can be reduced at no huge loss for learning. Third, work on your presentation skills to get away with no editing at all, as editing takes a lot of time.

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Week 2 of our MOOC by Linda Hegarty, Project Manager

How can we make MOOCs more satisfying?

Looking at the profile of people who signed up for the second delivery of Making Moocs on a Budget, we could guess that the majority of participants, like us, come from traditional education backgrounds. Doing a MOOC requires a change in mind-set – and doing a few things differently so that we can create a satisfying learning experience. If not, it can easily become an arduous task of consuming content from a computer screen – on your own – and very often giving up!

More than consuming content from a screen?

The basis of the MOOC consists of the materials released each week containing the substance of what is being studied. The combination of videos, text documents and other ‘learning objects’ are the virtual equivalent of the traditional course book. But doing a MOOC is not just about consuming this content. In week 1, we looked at the levels of learning, using Blooms taxonomy   to develop meaningful learning experiences for our learners – but what about the participants in this MOOC?  How can we achieve these higher order skills?

Watching the videos and reading some of the text documents on our MOOC will help with some of the lower order skills – remembering and understanding. But to move on to the level of applying knowledge, even the simple quizzes ond other assignments will help. However, there are greater chances still of achieving the top-level learning skills from collaborating with other participants – sharing the knowledge and experiences of the whole group – learning is social!

Discussion forums allow us to reflect, collaborate and learn together.

Becoming an active member of an online community can be something we dread or don’t know how to approach – even when we understand and believe in the benefits of collaboration!

In my own case, I think I subconsciously rank activities in relation to my comfort level – e.g. reading updates, watching videos, accessing reading material online is convenient, entertaining and easy. I enjoy the variety in the format of content and value the flexibility – that I can access them whenever and wherever etc. Furthermore, I feel safe because my role in using these resources is similar to what is expected of a student in a model which I grew up with – more-or-less passive and invisible – getting on with things myself.

In relation to the discussion forums, from the moment I started being involved in online communities, I enjoyed reading what other people posted, but actually participating is something I have had to work hard at. Contributing in the traditional model is safe – because the knowledge has already been classified as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ by the expert, so anyone who studies the material can enter a Q&A session, knowing more or less how the contribution will be received. Contributing in a learning community is somewhat of a leap into the unknown, which requires much more bravery – there is no guarantee that what we write will be accepted by the group, and let’s face it, most people do not like to be challenged publicly.

“Understanding the implications of one’s online presence as part of practice, learning, and life in general, is a new skill to be acquired.” (Costa 2011, p.81).  For Moocers to establish this online presence confidently, participants need to be sure there will not be negative consequences to their contribution. There needs to be an understanding that all participants behave respectfully and that disrespectful comments will not be tolerated.  This is a delicate and difficult task, but one which we need to make sure is in place!

At this point in the Making Moocs on a budget MOOC, we are hoping that people will make this leap to establishing their online presence, to actively participate in any of the open discussions, and get on the road to achieving those higher order skills!


Click here to do the poll

Do you consider yourself a confident digital learner (are you comfortable participating in discussion forums and finding your way round the platform)?

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Anyone can build a MOOC – Press Release.

Press Release, Thursday 5th May, 2016

Anyone can build a Massive Open Online Course!

There is no way that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be sustainable when they are that expensive to build! Well, so let’s take the cost out of their production. A group of educators in Europe want to prove that if you can teach at all, then you can also teach thousands of participants online. This group from Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain have got together to show how it can be done. On the 17th of May, 2016, they will be launching their open online course titled “Making MOOCs on a Budget” to show how one can build an open online courses with very little money and even with limited time. They will cover how to quickly create video content and how to source other free content on the web, how to engage learners and how to assess progress. This course will be useful to those who are just curious, those who wish to learn new techniques and those who wish to actually build a MOOC. The course will stay open for four months so that participants can access their peers and tutors as they build their courses. Start creating your own course and sign up at moocs4all.eu — together with your colleagues.


The LoCoMotion project is funded by the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Fund.

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Panel discussion at #emoocs2016 in Graz


The eMOOCs2016 conference will take place next week at Graz, Austria, and will include three tracks (Research, Experience, Institutional & Corporate).

On Monday 22 February, Brian Mulligan will represent the Moocs4all (Locomotion) project by participating with other educators in a Panel Session entitled European support services for developing MOOCs. From the conference website:

Several European projects are developing services that support teachers in designing and developing MOOCs. This goes beyond offering (open) MOOC platforms. Examples are schemes of how to develop MOOCs at low cost, pedagogical models, translation services, training to develop MOOC, business models for institutions. Several services already available will be highlighted, also in relation to sustainability after the project lifetime.


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A Webinar to celebrate Open Education Week

oew2016-badge-smallOpen Education Week is ahead, from 7 to 11 March 2016. Its goal is to raise awareness about free and open educational opportunities that exist for everyone, everywhere, right now.

The Moocs4all (Locomotion) team will contribute to #openeducationwk with a webinar by Brian Mulligan.

This webinar will give a quick overview of how anyone can build a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and introduce people to the moocs4all.eu MOOC “Building a MOOC on a Budget” which will be delivered from mid-May 2016 where anyone can learn the techniques and start building with the support of their fellow learners and the moocs4all.eu team. The project leader Brian Mulligan (Institute of Technology Sligo) will make a short presentation and then open the floor up for a discussion between listeners and the other project partners from Delft University of Technology, Fachhochschule Bielefeld, University of Girona and Bath Spa University. (This webinar has taken place and the recording is available here: http://itsligo.adobeconnect.com/p3t92x5krqe/ )

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Bigger and Better “Making MOOCs on a Budget”

Making MOOCs on a Budget is the title of the MOOC we have built and delivered for the #moocs4all project.   We are now preparing for our next delivery which is going to be “bigger and better” and will start on the 17th of May, 2016.  If you are interested you can register here

This five-week course will show interested participants how to build a MOOC, including lots of tips and tricks that we had to discover ourselves, and most importantly, at an affordable cost. It covers content creation and content sourcing from the web, assessment at large scale through the use of quizzes and peer assignments, communication between learners and course design. Not only will this course show you how to build a MOOC, it will provide you with support from tutors and fellow participants if you wish to build your own MOOC.

You can choose what you want to get out of this course.  Depending on your level of interest it will require between one and six hours of effort per week.  You can participate at any of the following levels (all free):

  1. Viewing and reading the course materials to gain an insight into the low-cost techniques that can be used to build MOOCs.
  2. Taking all the quizzes successfully to gain a Certificate of Completion.
  3. Submitting the assignments and reviewing those of other participants to gain a Certificate of Accomplishment.
  4. Lastly, you will have access to the course materials, tutors and fellow participants for a period of three months to help you build your own MOOC and gain a MOOC Builder Certificate.

This course is being delivered by our #moocs4all team, from five European higher education institutions with significant experience in content development, online distance learning and MOOCs. Not only will we be providing students with knowledge and advice drawn from their own research and experiences, we will be creating the opportunity for participants to share their experiences and add more knowledge to the course.

This course is for all with an interest in making MOOCs, specifically in an efficient way. Some experience in making online courses will be helpful although we will point you to resources to start from scratch.

The course leaders:

Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland

Brian Mulligan from IT Sligo has been involved in distance learning provision since 1989 and in online distance learning since 2002. It has grown rapidly to approximately 1800 students (~25% of the student body) using a low-cost development approach. He has recently managed the successful development and delivery an industry focused MOOC, “Introduction to Lean Sigma Quality” and is currently supporting a four external subject matter experts in developing low-cost MOOCs on a project funded by Intel Ireland.

Fachhochschule Bielefeld, Germany

Jörn Loviscach is a professor of technical mathematics and computer engineering at Fachhochschule Bielefeld (University of Applied Sciences) in Bielefeld, Germany. In the German-speaking countries, Jörn Loviscach is well-known for his YouTube channel with thousands of videos on mathematics, computer science and related topics as well as talks on education and e-learning. Addressing an English-speaking audience, his massive open online course (MOOC) titled “Differential Equations in Action” went online on Udacity in 2012.

Technische Universiteit Delft, Holland

Janine Kiers. is the Product Manager MOOCs at TU Delft. By the start of 2015, TU Delft has offered 18 MOOCs on the edX platform and continues to develop courses and improve them for reruns. This forms part of the focus on open and online education the TU Delft has committed to. The expertise TU Delft has developed ranges from e-Learning development to videography and instructional design to copyright expertise.

Universitat de Girona, Spain.

Sílvia Simon and Miquel Duran, active researchers at the University of Girona (UdG), have a good experience in training lecturers to develop their own MOOCs, besides having created two MOOCs in the Spanish MiriadaX platform and creating two new ones in 2015.  They connect MOOCs with Open Science and also with a new way of Science Communication. The Catalan Regional Government partially funded a MOOC in 2014, and has recently funded two new MOOC courses for this team, which are included in the LoCoMoTion proposal.

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3rd #moocs4all team meeting in Girona


Yesterday all day long and this morning, the #moocs4all team has gathered in Girona – this project is also known as LoCoMoTion (Low-Cost MOOC Production). Not everyone has been able to attend the meeting: attendants are coordinator Brian Mulligan (IT Sligo), Jörn Loviscach (Bielefeld), Janine Kiers (TU Delft), and the hosts Sílvia Simon and Miquel Duran (UdG). The meeting has been held at the Science & Technology Park of the University of Girona. A windowless room of the Institute of Computational Chemistry and Catalysis, Silvia and Miquel’s research unit, has provided a suitable environment with no possible distraction.

The main task of this meeting has been to evaluate the first edition of the primary MOOC “MOOCs on a budget”, that had ca. 50 registered students; further, the team is using this experience to build up a new, second version with a new, better structure which may be  more useful at the same time. To reach such a goal, we has taken into account all items contained in a MOOC, while looking for the their value regarding “low-cost” issues – in the sense of not being expensive, yet exhibiting quality enough.

This is the third project team meeting, after a kick-off in Delft and a second meeting in Bath. The team realizes that offline interaction among the members allows for fast advance and innovation, while everyone learns many thinks from the others – besides knowing different ways of task management.

Of course, during the few spare hours the host members have conducted guided visites to Girona’s Old City, yesterday night and today early morning – so foreigners might see it in two different light environments. The local team guesses that the three visitors have really enjoyed the visits (actually Brian Mulligan had already visited the city some time ago)


And last but not least… we shot a lot of selfies!


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EDEN Workshop Toward a Low-cost Production of MOOCs: Pedagogy and Communication

This topic explores the pedagogical options available to developers for free large scale courses.  As well as addressing the xMOOC/cMOOC debate, it will address how peer-to-peer communication and support can be both encouraged. Indeed one of the key issues is maximizing registration in the course and minimizing dropout rates. Thus, the convenience of a well-balanced team (and time scheduling) will be considered. Furthermore the connection between MOOCs and actual openness will be addressed.

Take part in the discussion before and after the EDEN workshop.  Leave your comments below. (Take part in the workshop remotely via videoconference 10th June – 16:30 – 18:00 CET )

This is one of the four topics we will address at the Workshop “Toward a Low-cost Production of MOOCs” at the forthcoming EDEN Conference in Barcelona.

Questions for Discussion (please add your comments)

Should xMOOCs be favored vs. cMOOCs when considering a low-cost approach?

Any ideas on enhancing the openness of MOOCs while keeping them low-cost?

Next video: Institutional Services to support Low-cost Development

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EDEN Workshop: Lean content development, sourcing, and hosting of MOOCs

This 4-minute video makes some suggestions on how to cheaply develop and source content for your MOOC and how to host it.  Let us know what you think in the comments below.

This is one of the four topics we will address at the Workshop “Toward a Low-cost Production of MOOCs” at the forthcoming EDEN Conference in Barcelona. (Take part in the workshop remotely via videoconference 10th June – 16:30 – 18:00 CET )

Question for discussion (please comment below)

What have you seen in terms of MOOC production that…

  1. …was done so cheaply that it hampered learning?
  2. … could have been crafted more efficiently with little impact on effectiveness?

Next Video: Low-cost approaches to Pedagogy and Communication

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