MOOCs – Myths and Practicalities

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are a pretty hot topic at the moment, both in education and also in the corporate world.  We have therefore got a couple of posts for you to read in preparation for this week’s chat.  The first one is a guest post from Donald Clark (@donaldclark).  Donald has written extensively about MOOCs on his blogging site  Donald Clark Plan B and his post, MOOCS not what people think they are – 7 myths seeks to dispel some of the common misconceptions.

MOOCs not what people think they are – 7 myths

A lot of comments on MOOCs are by people who fire off arrows, draw a circle around them and claim they’ve hit the bullseye.

Myth 1: Drop out. I’m just amazed that 10 million have dropped in. It’s a category mistake to take a term used in one context ‘University drop-out’ and apply in in another different context – a low commitment, try it and see context.

Myth 2: Only taken by graduates. Sure many are graduates but not all and that’s only because MOOCs have been marketed to that ‘early adopter’ audience. Many are there to see what MOOCs are and to try them out. Early adopters are almost always ‘experts’.

Myth 3: It’s all about replacing existing HE. No, it’s not about ’18 year old undergraduates’. It’s about lifelong learners, and CPD. It will not replace HE but it will affect they way they deliver courses in the future, accelerating online delivery.

Myth 4: Weak on assessment. There’s not only a range of assessment techniques within MOOCs, software assessment, peer assessment and even text and coding analysis. For summative certification there’s Certificates of completion, Certificates of mastery, Certificates of distinction, Online and offline proctoring and University credits. More is being done to implement online assessment in MOOCs than was ever done in traditional HE courses.

Myth 5: It’s all just recorded lectures. Not really. Few put up 1 hour lectures in MOOCs, EdX have found that 6 mins is the maximum effective time. Others have played with formats showing just a hand writing the maths, physics, whatever. It has stimulated interest in optimising video for learning taking us away from traditional 1 hour lectures,

Myth 6: There’s cMOOCs and xMOOCs. This hopelessly outdated dualist taxonomy ignores the range of platforms and types of MOOCs now on offer. There’s adaptive MOOCs, game MOOCs, asynchronous MOOCs, synchronous MOOCs and so on. It’s a much wider and more varied landscape than this taxonomy suggests.

Myth 7: Can’t be monetised. Sorry, EdX break even, Coursera made $1million in certification revenues in their first 12 months and it took them 3 months to make their next million. There’s over 20 different monetisation tracks for MOOCs. Also, Universities have been around for over 700 years and still haven’t cracked the monetisation problem.

Donald added to his posts referencing that research shows employers love MOOCs!

The second post is by Chat2lrn Crew Member Martin Couzins (@learnpatch).  Martin co-designed and run a MOOC earlier this year and shares some of the practicalities involved.

Designing and running a MOOC

In January, Sam Burrough (@burrough) and I ran our first MOOC on digital curation skills. We used the Curatr platform which enabled us to curate relevant content and design the course with some game mechanics. Curatr is an ideal platform for running mid-size MOOCs because it’s built for social learning and uses gamification elements to maintain engagement. We had 350 on our MOOC.

We created levels within the course which meant participants were required to gain ‘points’ through participation. This included answering questions posed by us, commenting on other people’s comments and voting up comments too.

Our MOOC focused on practical skills, we used curated content to provoke conversations and create connections. As well as Curatr, we used a Twitter hashtag (#dcurate) to add an extra layer of interaction, promote the course and provide customer service (to support participants).

Although the platform is easy to use in terms of designing MOOCs, there is a large time commitment required to source good content and to design the questions so that you spark useful debate.

You then have to market the MOOC, which we did on Twitter and via email. Once the MOOC was up and running our focus turned to facilitating conversations within the MOOC, customer service and running the Twitter chats.

As the scale and quality of the conversation and comments was so good – we had well over a thousand comments – we spent more time than we anticipated we would getting involved in the conversations.

Ours was a practical MOOC and from the comments, participants valued the learning (focused content), the shared purpose (learning with others interested in the same topic), making connections and for some getting to the top of the leaderboard and finishing the MOOC. We also wanted to ‘reward’ those who stuck with it the whole way through, so we had a had a badge created for those who completed the course.

Hope you can join us on Thursday 10 April 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST

Pay and Gender, An Unfortunate Pairing

Unless you’re taking your first breath, you know about the gender pay gap. On average, men make more than women in almost every occupation. Women’s median weekly earnings are lower in nearly all occupations, whether they work in female-dominated occupations, male-dominated occupations, or occupations dominated by a mix of females and males (Women’s Policy Research The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation Fact Sheet). The World Economic Forum calculates complex global gender gaps by country and region. Their report, The Global Gender Gap 2012, underscores it’s negative implications.

There are some people who naively think that the gender gap can be explained by women taking time off with children but The American Association of University Women (AAUW) research, which studied full-time, year-round women workers, found that among full-time workers only a year after college graduation, women were paid just 82% of what their male counterparts were paid. Their research also found that women face a pay gap that grows with age.

This gap exists in the learning industry and here’s an example. The eLearning Guild recently completed a salary survey. The report included 2,476 (41.80%) male and 3,447 (58.20%) female respondents, including 13% contractors, 86.4% employees, and 0.6% unemployed. Of people responding to the survey, 89.3% were full-time and 10.7% were part time. As the Guild’s 2014 Salary Infographic shows (Figure 1), women’s average salaries in 2014 were 9.7%, on average, lower than men’s average salaries and 4.4% lower than the global average salary. Figure 2 from the Guild salary report shows that for most countries and regions, women’s salaries are less than men’s salaries. India was an exception this year.


Figure 1. Salary Differences by Gender

Fig 12 Global By Gender

Figure 2. Average Salary by Gender

People (mostly women) wrote to me (Patti Shank, the author of the report) to ask if it could be explained by education level or job responsibilities. The answer is “No.” The difference is explained, as it is in other fields, primarily by gender.

Meghan Casserly, staff writer at Forbes, says there’s an expectation wage gap between men and women in the workforce. Women expect lower wages than men and get them. She says that research from Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever shows that women simply don’t negotiate so they end up with lower wages to begin with and since raises compound on existing pay, men’s pay tends to rise faster. Maha Atal, a Forbes contributor, provides a list of sites to help with the wage gap.

American Association of University Women. The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, 2013 edition. AAUW, 2013.

Atal, Maha. “How much do you know about the gender pay gap?” Forbes. 18 April 2012.

Casserly, Megan. “The Real Origins Of The Gender Pay Gap—And How We Can Turn It Around.” Forbes. 5 July 2012.

Hausmann, Ricardo, Laura D. Tyson, and Saadia Zahidi. The World Economic Forum: The Global Gender Pay Gap Report 2012. World Economic Forum, 2012.

Hegewisch, Ariane, Claudia Williams, and Vanessa Harbin. The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2012.

Shank, Patti. 2014 Global eLearning Salary & Compensation Report.

Neuroscience and Learning

Definition of neuroscience: a branch (as neurophysiology) of science that deals with the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissue and especially their relation to behavior and learning (

Those involved in designing, delivering or any other aspect of training and development in most settings will find themselves at one point or another wondering: how do people learn?

There’s theories (of course, lots of them), but it seems like there’s a lot of talk about the brain when it comes to learning lately. The subject of neuroscience is hot, but especially when connected to learning. In fact, a quick search turned up quite a few interesting hits:

Trouble is, that the field is still quite young, and there’s a lot of pop psychology and neuro-babble out there to trip us up. But, the fact remains, knowing about how brains work is pretty integral to how we might approach training and creating conditions for learning.

Unless you are a neuroscientist, you might find it hard to separate fact from fiction or struggle to understand practical applications of neuroscience. Or you may hear about things (like the “Jennifer Aniston neuron”. Really) that make you wonder if there’s any connection to your own work. Perhaps you are a neuro-skeptic that’s seen our field adopt “truths” that have turned out to be not so truth-y after all (I’m looking at you, learning styles).

Curious about neuroscience and learning? Come and join our chat! Are you an actual brain scientist? Definitely come and join our chat and help us unravel the mysteries in our heads.

Additional links:

Creativity and the brain


Other links

Microlearning: Finding Learning Opportunities in the Flow of Work

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist.

digitalchalk-what-is-micro-learning How many times each day do you log into your computer or an online application?  10 times a day? 20 times? More?  What if you were in the process of learning a new language and each time you logged in, you were presented with a vocabulary question or two to answer before proceeding with your work tasks?  The questions might repeat at each login until you consistently answer correctly. By the end of the day you may have engaged in 20 or more instances of microlearning. By the end of the week, you may have had over 150 opportunities to practice and learn new vocabulary, all without attending a class, viewing an eLearning module, or spending dedicated time on self-study.

Microlearning uses the principle of repetition to deliver content in very small pieces over the course of time which helps the content become ultimately cemented into long term memory.  Sophisticated systems can be used to integrate this microlearning into the flow of work and track progress in a relatively unobtrusive way.  It is almost like being presented with 2 or 3 flash cards for 30 seconds several times a day. Once you get a flash card right a few times in a row, it is replaced by a new one. You can find out more about this approach to microlearning here.

I find this whole idea fascinating. We all know attending a class and receiving a content dump is not effective in terms of retention. It’s repetition and practice that really makes things stick and produce a measurable improvement over the long-term. It’s finding time for that repetition and practice where many of us stumble and we lose the knowledge we gained by attending a “learning event” of some type.  Microlearning can solve that problem by using systems to integrate repetition of content seamlessly into 


the  flow of work.

I am certainly not advocating for microlearning as a solution to all our our content delivery problems. I think some topics are much more well suited for this approach than others. However, when used under the right circumstances and conditions, I think it could create a tremendous advantage in terms of learner retention.

Join us this week for a #chat2lrn session dedicated to this topic. We would love to hear your ideas and opinions. #chat2lrn will take place on Thursday February 27 at 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00GMT. We hope to see you there!

Performance consulting: a surefire way to survive the death of training

This week, Chat2lrn are delighted to welcome a guest post from Nigel Harrison – Author, Chartered Business Psychologist and Performance Consultant.

Performance Consultingthe practice of helping organisations to improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing organisational problems and development of plans for improvement.

“Death” might be a bit strong. It’s the transactional trainer role that has progressively died.  So how can we describe a transactional trainer?  It’s the trainer who took orders from clients for courses and commissioned training.  This quasi-administrative role added little value to the business and in successful businesses has all but disappeared.

Workshops that concentrate on skills (rather than delivering knowledge) are thriving. Skilled facilitators can be hired by the session rather than having them on the books.  The internal trainer who delivers business critical subject matter expertise also survives.

So who else survives?

  • The internal consultants who ensure compliance are easy to justify.
  • The e-learning team maintaining the web site with role-specific learning objects for self-service by managers and learners.
  • The techie’s who can design and support performance support


  • The Learning and Performance Consultant – an internal consultant who can      partner with clients to understand their initial requests, such as, “We need sales training”. Rather than take an order for training, they turn these requests into real needs with a justified business value and then go onto design shared learning and performance solutions.

How do I know things are changing?  Five years ago I was contracted by a major corporate to train their 82 L&D professionals; I am now coaching the 16 survivors in Performance Consulting so that they can link everything they do to justified business priorities.

I think this is why Charles Jennings sees the growth of Performance Consulting and his no. 1 theme for 2014?

What do you think? Join us for #chat2lrn on Thursday 13 February 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00GMT and share your thoughts.

Nigel Harrison has his own Performance Consultancy business – Performance Consulting UK and also delivers Certified Performance Consultancy Master Classes (PCM) for the Learning and Performance Institute.

“How to be a True Business Partner by Performance Consulting” by Nigel Harrison

Available from

or Amazon

What can our hobbies teach us about learning?

Today’s post is written by Meg Bertapelle, #chat2lrn crew member, instructional designer, mother, wife, crafter, and marching band geek who wishes there was more time in a day.
knitting - rainbow pom-pom scarf

I’m a knitter, and a crafter in general.  I grew up doing “crafty” things with my mom and my grandma (who lived with us starting when I was 5, and still lives with my parents).  I paint, draw, make jewelry and cards, and have attempted sewing. Pretty much, if it’s crafty, I am into it.  Of course, this can get a bit overwhelming ;)

digital scrapbooking

I have also, more recently, gotten into digital scrapbooking to help keep up with all the memories of my daughter’s early years that I want to save from the inevitable forgetful black hole that is my mommy-brain (and I am now obsessed, by the way!).

The first (and glaringly obvious) thing that my hobbies have taught me about learning is to just DO IT! Maybe have someone show you (or find a tutorial) the first time or two, and just get your hands dirty and try something.

Ask for help, or search Google or YouTube for tutorials, when you get stuck or feel like you could do better.

Go ahead and screw it up. If you can’t live with the mistake, start over & do it again, but don’t keep yourself from jumping in because you don’t want to “do it wrong.”

Don’t wait until you can “learn everything” about the hobby before you start – you can’t absorb the finer details until you try the basics.

The really great thing about learning and hobbies, is that we are already interested in the topic, and motivated to learn. We don’t have to figure out some contrived relevance to our real lives, we are seeking out the knowledge and skills required to DO the fun stuff.  Hobbies make us happy, and really that’s all we usually require of them.  As human beings we are happier and healthier being challenged, so learning is a natural and integral part of having a hobby.

And wow, if you can love what you do, do what you love and actually make a living at it, how much fun would that be?

Check out how Logan LaPlante has constructed his own education around this kind of plan:

And just for fun, 18 Important Life Lessons to Learn from Knitting [BuzzFeed]

What are your hobbies?

What have they taught you about learning?

Is it anything you think you could apply to your work?

Tell us in #chat2lrn Thurs Jan 30 8am PST/11am EST/4pm BST.  See you there!

The Science of Creativity


If you missed the chat, catch-up with this Storify.

Some believe that creativity is an innate quality while others counter that argument with the idea that creativity comes from one more “muscle” in the brain that can be built up over time through education, practice and the removal of creativity roadblocks. Many psychologists argue the latter, for example this article on the Science of Creativity. It lists several empirically backed tips to stimulate creativity that might be boiled down to these three general steps:

Step one: Remove roadblocks.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do you stand in your own way for being creative?
  • How do others stand in the way of you doing innovative things?
  • What gets in the way of you being able to produce creative products and communicate with others?

Roadblocks are personal, so only you can identify what stops you from believing you have creative juices and using them effectively.

Step two: Get ready to be creative.

Get educated by collecting information and resources. If you’re unsure of your topic you are trying to be creative about, you might find that your idea has already been invented or created. Appreciating other’s work is a great way to know you’re coming up with an effective and creative solution and inspiring yourself to be different. Whether you’re trying to develop that a new elearning template or trying to figure out how to mash together augmented reality, mobile learning and storytelling into a solution never seen before, take some time to really get to know what is already out there.

  • You might have struggled with step one on identifying your roadblocks, so do some research to help figure out what common roadblocks exist and then see if they apply to your situation.
  • Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Get past being a beginner and get to the novice stage – read books, Google white papers, or watch YouTube videos. Use every means at your disposal to learn more about your topic.
  • View what others do – talk to others and brainstorm with them. Check out Pinterest, eLearning DemoFest, or anywhere else you can find examples of good work.
  • Create a collection of inspirational ideas, a folder (electronic or hardcopy) of content that inspires you.

Step three: Leverage your new education and lack of roadblocks to attempt creativity.

  • Just do it! Brainstorm/write/create without hesitation – you can always edit later, but let it all flow at first. You never know turns out to be useful/reusable for one purpose or another.
  • When you hit a roadblock, do something else (anything else, including sleeping on it) and come back to it later.
  • Positive reinforcement – Rome wasn’t designed in a day so even if you only accomplish something very small, give yourself some big credit and do a little more tomorrow.

In summary

If you didn’t find success then don’t be hard on yourself. Instead just smile, rinse and repeat steps 1-3 or try Googling more resources. If you found success, pat yourself on the back, smile and repeat steps 1-3 since it worked so well the first time.