Designing effective MOOCs
This paper explores three rather loosely connected aspects of MOOCs: 12 dimensions of MOOCs, 5 pedagogical approaches used in MOOCs, and how the 7Cs framework can by used when designing MOOCs.
- A classification schema for MOOCs
- Using the classification schema to describe different MOOCs
- The importance of learning design
- The 7Cs of learning design
Issues with MOOCs
Interest in MOOCs may be more due to hype than actual results, which is evident by their low participation and high dropout rates.
There are questions about how to provide recognition for learning in MOOCs. Some options currently in use are:
- Requiring learners to pay for a certificate
- Providing electronic badges
- Petitioning for recognition from OERu
There also remain questions about how best to support learners in MOOCs. For example, in connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) learner support primarily comes from the participants’ personal learning environment (PLE). In traditional MOOCs, tutors may provide support to learners.
Lastly, many MOOCs have quality issues and ‘to date most have been developed on a fairly ad hoc basis’ (Conole, 2015, p. 247).
Twelve MOOC dimensions
The author contends that there are 12 dimensions by which one can look at and compare MOOCs. Three of the dimensions are related to context:
- Degree of openness
- Number of participants, or relative massiveness
- Participant diversity
Six dimensions are about how learning occurs:
- Types and frequency of multimedia use
- Modes of communication
- Level of collaboration between learners
- Degree to which reflection is explicitly encouraged
- Whether curricula and learning pathways are specified and prescribed
- Level of learner autonomy
The remaining three dimensions are more administrative in nature:
- How quality is ensured
- How learner certification or recognition is handled
- Whether the MOOC is part of formal education or informal education
Five pedagogical approaches
Investigating the 12 dimensions of a MOOC helps one identify the MOOC’s underlying pedagogical approach.
|Pedagogical approach||Definition||Example elements||Example MOOCs|
|Associative (operant conditioning)||Helps learner make an association between stimulus and response||- Drill and practice exercises|
- Electronic quizzes and assessments
|Free Chinese Lessons : The learner listens to a series of podcasts and then tests their knowledge with online quizzes|
|Cognitive||Learner experiences a stimuli and then reflects on it||Songwriting: Writing the Lyrics|
|Constructivist||Learning is built on prior knowledge||- Task-oriented activities|
- Active learning
- Problem-based learning
- Inquiry learning
|Open Learning Design Studio (retired course): Course starts from the learner's level of knowledge and builds on it|
|Situative||Learning occurs in a specific context and through dialogue||Virtual worlds||Intro to Clinical Neurology : Focus is on contextual learning for continuing professional development|
|Connectivist||Participants learn from a community of peers||- Personal learning environments (PLEs)|
- Learner-chosen digital tools
|Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (last presentation was 2011): The 2008 presentation was the first cMOOC|
Learning Design Studio
Learning Design Studio can be used by professionals when designing a MOOC. ‘It is an alternative to the more established field of Instructional Design. It aims to provide a holistic overview of the whole design process and helps teachers make more effective design decisions that are pedagogically informed and make appropriate use of digital technologies’ (Conole, 2015, p. 246). It addresses needs of teachers who do not use learning technologies in their courses typically because they lack time and support, championship and leadership from senior levels, incentives, and funding to do so.
However, Learning Design may be helpful even within organizations that do have instructional designers even if they are not the primary recipients. It provides:
- Guidance when making design decisions
- Visualization of the designs
- Method for sharing designs with others
Learning Design can be used with the 7Cs framework when designing MOOCs, and doing so may improve overall quality and rates of retention and learning.
7Cs framework (Conole, 2015, p. 247)
1. Conceptualize the learners and course principles.
- Create personas of expected learners to guide your work.
2. Create the activities and resources you will use in the course.
- Will you use text, interactive materials, videos?
3. Establish how learners will communicate with each other and with tutors.
- How will you foster communication on forums? Will you provide moderation?
- Will you encourage communicating on social media? Will you set up a Facebook page or suggest a hashtag?
4. Create activities that will foster collaboration and group work in the course.
5. Add opportunities for learners to consider and reflect on their learning.
- Are there activities that promote reflection, such as reflective writing?
- How can the learner demonstrate their learning? Should you include formative or summative assessments?
- How can you recognize learning? Digital badges, certificates, etc.?
6. Combine all of the above to make an activity profile and course view or storyboard.
- Create an activity profile that shows how much time is spent on assimilative activities (reading, listening, viewing); information handling (finding, collating); communication; productive activities (creating learning artifacts); adaptive activities (using simulation or modeling tools); experimental activities (practice drills, experiments); and assessments (formative or summative)
- Create a course view map or storyboard
7. Consolidate: Implement and evaluate the course.
- Analyze participant interactions.
- Use an evaluation rubric, and conduct surveys or interviews.
- Evaluate across the 12 MOOC dimensions.
Resources and activities for the 7Cs framework: https://www2.le.ac.uk/projects/oer/oers/beyond-distance-research-alliance/7Cs-toolkit