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 This hopelessly outdated dualist taxonomy ignores the range of platforms and types of MOOCs now on offer.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

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