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Proceedings of the 10th International Scientific Conference "eLearning and Software for Education" Bucharest, April 24 - 25, 2014. Publisher: Editura Universitatii Nationale de Aparare "Carol I”
How to MOOC? – A pedagogical guideline for practitioners
Elke Lackner, Michael Kopp
Academy of New Media and Knowledge TransferUniversity of Graz, Liebiggasse 9/2, A-8010 Graz firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Social Learning, Computer and Information Services,Graz University of Technology, Steyrergasse 30, A-8010 Graz, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: Massive Open Online Courses, shortly MOOCs, are a trending phenomenon in online education. Neither distance education nor online courses are new, but especially in the field of technology enhanced learning, MOOCs have been gathering enormous attention by the public. Thus, following the main idea of bringing education to a broad range of people, two universities in Graz developed an xMOOC platform for the German speaking area, mostly addressing people in Austria. Before the first courses started the authors reflected on how such a MOOC should be carried out and which key factors (didactical, technical and administrative) have to be considered. This research study strongly concentrates on developing a checklist for practitioners who would like to do an xMOOC in the future by examining different xMOOCs and reflecting first experiences gathered through daily work on MOOCs. It can be concluded that doing a Massive Open Online Course is much more challenging as maybe expected at first sight. Nevertheless the proposed checklist will help to overcome first barriers and provide solid steps towards one’s first online course. Keywords: MOOC; didactics; Higher Education; Information System
In our today’s digital world education is changing with a pace never reached in the history of mankind. After the introduction of the World Wide Web in the early 1990’s web-based training became popular and some years later Learning Management Systems were introduced in educational institutions. Since 2005 the so called Web 2.0  has been the fundament for the next generation learning, called e-learning 2.0 . Teachers as well as students use weblogs , wikis , podcasts  as well as social media platforms  for their daily teaching and learning processes. Then the invention of the Apple iPhone as well as similar follow-up devices with different mobile operating systems (Android) or enhanced hardware facilities (Tablets) together with a high mobile bandwidth brought mobile learning to our minds  as well as in practice all over the world . Learning became more and more ubiquitous . Nowadays everybody at least in middle Europe is able to learn everywhere and also without time limitations. Finally the digital world brought us an important debate about the access of learning content and how we are able to deal with it as lecturers and learners, summarized by the initiatives of Open Educational Resources . Putting all these developments together, all the possibilities and experiences in online learning gathered over the years as well as new technological solutions it seems just consequent to offer online courses for free to a broad range of learners. Therefore George Siemens started in 2008 the first so
called Massive Open Online Course, shortly MOOC , and attracted more than thousand learners to learn with him about new trends and possibilities when learning with the Internet. These first MOOCs based on the idea to connect people and offer them a platform for exchange and discussion. In consequence these courses are called cMOOCs. Just a couple of years later very famous universities like Stanford, Harvard or MIT attracted thousands of learners all over the world with their xMOOCs . A typical xMOOC consists of very structured content (divided into 6 to 10 units), video lectures, enhanced learning material and self-assessment. However, MOOCs are one of the most current trends in technology enhanced education and only little research has been carried out addressing this upcoming phenomenon so far. The University of Graz and Graz University of Technology have a long tradition in doing online courses. Following the latest developments as described above or also as mentioned in the NMC Horizon Report  a project on developing an xMOOC platform has been started in 2013. Due to the fact that providing an information system does not automatically lead to a perfect (massive) online course further research is necessary to guide lecturers through their content development as well as their online lecturing. For example previous research  pointed out the lack of interaction during such courses, which leads to dissatisfaction on the learners’ side . Very high dropout rates   gave us a hint that the course content differs from learners’ expectations. It’s not only a good technological background and an interesting content that count for the learners’ online learning experience, but also the methodological approach concerning interaction, communication and an appropriate form of assessment. However, to overcome this issue research has been done addressing following questions: • Which main issues should be taken into account by a lecturer before planning / starting an xMOOC? • Which structure should an xMOOC follow? • What do learners expect from an xMOOC? Which kind of assessment is appropriate? • What are the key issues concerning resources and media as well as communication and interaction? II. METHODOLOGY
In this publication we concentrate our research work on a deep literature study followed by a structural analysis. Together with our first practical experiences first recommendations concerning didactics and methodology are carried out. 2.1 xMOOCs – the situation right now
As mentioned in the introduction, Massive Open Online Courses are one of the biggest trends of the last year especially in the academic world, attracting thousands of learners to enhance their knowledge on a mostly voluntary basis . According to different literature studies   a typical xMOOC consists of following elements: • course structure with learning targets, • video lectures (recordings or new products), • additional learning content according to the video lectures • asynchronous communication possibilities (e.g. discussion forums) • self-assessment according to the video lectures • certificates for successful completion of the course • information system that provides all these contents Most of the xMOOXs are offered over a longer period of time, normally between 6 to 12 weeks . The learning content is structured into smaller parts (units) across these weeks and the workload for each week is outlined with a fixed start and end date. The biggest part of the content is usually provided as video lectures . Additionally to the learning content there are defined learning outcomes (objectives) which must be reached within the time frame.
A further essential part of an xMOOC is the self-assessment which is provided at least for each thematic unit. The most common possibilities are multiple-choice questions sometimes even within the videos or the upload of short essays. Courses related to computer science also ask for programming code. More or less all assessments as a whole are the basis for an automated check, evaluation and grading due to the huge numbers of learners . Due to the fact that learning is a strongly social process that happens through conversation  and interaction between students and teachers as well as students and students discussion forums are offered to guarantee and foster communication. Nevertheless the missing interaction between such a mass of people is one of the major problems of xMOOCs pointed out by  . The most popular platforms like Udactiy and edX now offer the organization of physical MeetUps between students to overcome the lack of interaction and communication  or encourage peer learning. 2.2 Research Study
In our research study we investigated a couple of already existing xMOOCs and took a careful look at the provided elements. Together with the literature review as mentioned above and the experiences of learners an overview has been carried out. Due to the fact that also a MOOC-Platform is currently developed by the research group, other existing platforms have intensively been studied. A short analyses at Udacity1, Coursera2, edX3, iversity4 and Open HPI5 has been done. All elements have been brought together and structured to provide forthcoming MOOC experts, administrators, developers as well as teachers a comprehensive checklist and framework for their daily work with (Massive) Open Online Courses. III. RESULTS
The results of our research study are integrated into a simple checklist, where all necessities doing a MOOC are listed. The second part of the chapter describes important parts of the list in a more detailed way. 3.1 Checklist The following checklist for the design and development of a MOOC is the result of the research study. All collected issues are allocated into six main categories: core requirements, structure, participant requirements, assignments, media design, communication and resources. 3.2 Elements of the checklist
Do a MOOC - Checklist Cat. Issue 1. Core requirements 1.1 Attend a MOOC yourself 1.2 Consider the open character of a MOOC 1.3 Select a topic for a large community instead of a specific audience 1.4 Select the appropriate course language 1.5 Plan for a heterogeneous target group 1.6 Select an appropriate platform 1.7 Test the platform and its features 1.8 Consider the use of tools outside the platform 1.9 Provide a tutorial for MOOC-Newbies 1.10 Provide a tutorial about how to work in a forum, a chat etc.
https://www.udacity.com/ [last visited February 2014] https://www.coursera.org [last visited February 2014] 3 https://www.edx.org/ [last visited February 2014] 4 https://iversity.org/ [last visited February 2014] 5 https://openhpi.de [last visited February 2014]
1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 2. 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 3. 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 4. 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 5. 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 6. 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5
Select supplementary tools (outside the platform) Provide tutorials for those supplementary tools (outside the platform) Test all activities, assignments and tests before they go online Promote your course Clarify institutional guidelines concerning certificates/ confirmations of participation Determine the desired level of interaction Structure Divide the course into equal parts (“course units”) Think about a recognizable structure of the different units and design it Divide the units into different environments (according to the objectives) Organize the activities and assignments so that they are feasible (“time management”) Create a preliminary course unit (“socializing”) before starting with content Participant requirements Tell the students at the beginning the requirements for a certificate Consider peer-review as an assessment method (announce the “peer-review-rules”) Decide if continually opened checks or a final artefact lead to a certificate Decide if it’s possible to earn a certificate though skipping course units Announce the average weekly work load to facilitate student time management Define learning outcomes (“learning objectives”) Design an appropriate quiz design Use different question types Provide wrong answers with feedback (thus, further information) Assignments Formulate assignments in a clear and understandable way Formulate assignments according to a heterogeneous audience Formulate assignments that stimulate communication processes Reduce terminological problems or misunderstandings by means of a glossary for example Be aware of a gender-sensitive language Create assignments according to the needs of different learning types Ensure transparent assessment criteria when doing peer-reviewed assignments Media design Chose media according to the content (“multimedia”) Chose adequate methods according to the content Test tools before using them to create content Create resources as OER under a Creative Commons Licence Use materials from the web provided you are allowed to (“licences”) Produce short videos (5-10 minutes) to provide information/ content Insert questions into the videos Divide the content into small pieces of information Chose supplementary tools that work independently from a specific operating system Create resources that can be worked on independently from a specific operation system (e.g. create pdf instead of docx) Create resources for different levels, standards, grades (e.g. for beginners, experts) Use gender-sensitive examples Create materials that can easily be read on the screen Create barrier-free materials and resources Create materials and resources following a consistent layout (“master template”) Communication Set up a newsletter to inform participants about the course schedule Create spaces for communication (e.g. open a forum or a wiki) Encourage the participations to open groups, forums and wikis on their own Give impetus to animate discussion processes in and outside of the MOOC Set up (communication) rules (“netiquette” or “chatiquette”)
6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 7. 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 7.10
Create a hashtag for the course Aggregate a newsfeed using the hashtag Be present (perhaps with the help of an e-tutor) Pay attention to the changed framework when planning synchronous meetings (e.g. time zones) Resources Check the framework: Are e-tutors available? Plan more time creating multimedia content (e.g. video lectures) Contact your IT or multimedia department (e.g. support for creating multimedia content) Create a network with colleagues Do the MOOC in a team or invite colleagues to be guest teachers Plan some extra time to promote the course Plan some extra time to find resources and materials Ask the participants for their feedback Document your MOOC experience in social networks or on a blog Plan some extra time to check the content (e.g. links) and to answer to student needs 3.3 Summing up the checklist’s elements
Before starting to plan and design a MOOC it seems important to have some own, so-called “student” experiences with a MOOC. Therefore it’s advisable to attend a MOOC before creating one, in order to know how a MOOC is organized in general. Furthermore it’s important to keep in mind the target group. As MOOCs are open courses that can be attended by everybody, the MOOC’s audience is always heterogeneous. Since the teacher can choose a topic without having to respect a certain curriculum, they can, at a certain degree, constrain or open the target group by choosing a wider or a more specific topic or by choosing a specific course language. The platform’s choice is also important. Is there a platform at all for the course and what requirements are necessary? Before creating the course the teacher has to determine a platform and know about its features and possibilities in order to be able to attune the course program to the given features or to look for additionally tools (e.g. social media, web 2.0) to complement the platform’s possibilities. As there will be beginners as well as professionals, workmen and academics, students and retirees in the course, it’s necessary to do some preliminary, organizational work in order to achieve a certain “working level” in the course. Providing tutorials treating the work with the platform and supplementary tools or discussions in forums and chats can help create a good working atmosphere in the course. When choosing tools, one can rely on tutorials or reviews, but it’s more recommendable to try them out oneself in order to be able to answer to users questions. According to the expected number of course participants the teacher has to define the level of interaction that is important for designing the course activities (e.g. Are forum discussion compulsory or by choice? Does the teacher participate actively in discussions?). Last but not least, the institutions statutory provisions concerning the possibility to earn a certificate or a confirmation of participation in the course have to be clarified. Then a marketing or promotion concept can be elaborated (if there is none provided by the institution or platform). After having set all the core requirements the course creation itself can start. First of all, the structure has to be fixed. Portion the content into eight to ten course units and consider a recurring structure for each single unit. Each unit should have the same environment, thus, a quiz element, a resources element, discussion element and so on. The timetable should be easily feasible, it might be necessary to time holidays or some extra time. The first unit has to serve as a welcome unit, where the participants get to know each other, the platform and the course schedule before starting to work on the content.  The third category is about participant requirements. It’s necessary that the participants know right from the beginning what they have to do to earn a certificate or confirmation of participation, e.g. if all course units have to be done or if one can skip one or another. It might thus be helpful to announce the average weekly workload they are expected to accomplish. It’s important to select an assessment method, a multiple choice quiz per unit, a final artefact, or even a peer-review activity that needs perhaps specific “rules” or a specific setting the participants should be prepared for. And so is
the quiz design. The questions should vary (multiple choice, single choice, true/false) and all wrong answers should be provided with feedback helping the participants to improve their learning outcome. If there are pre-formulated learning objectives the participants will get a kind of orientation which goals they have to achieve within a unit. Category 4 deals with the assignments. They should be formulated in a clear, understandable and gender-sensitive way according to the need of a heterogeneous audience and the different learning types. If the use of a specific terminology is inevitable e.g. a glossary might help the students to understand the assignments and do the work in an appropriate way. The assignments should incite communication processes within and outside the course, e.g. in social networks. All assignments should have transparent assessment criteria outlined at the beginning of a course unit or even the course itself. Category 5 is about Media Design. Concerning the resources used in the course, media design seems to be crucial for the course’s success. According to a specific content, different methods as well as media or resources must be chosen. As MOOCs are open available courses, it seems to be a necessity to publish all resources under a Creative Commons (CC) licence and to use already existing resources that are published under CC so they can be (re-)used in an educational context. At least some licence has to be outlined.  When producing new resources, it’s important to test the tools before starting the development process. Most MOOCs are based on video lectures. When creating these videos, it’s advisable to split the content into portions of five to ten minutes and to include questions into the videos in order to force students to consume the videos in a more or less active and concentrate way. All resources and tools should work on different (mobile) operating systems (thus, independent from a specific operating system or browser), as e.g. Acrobat documents (“pdf”) do. As the group is expected to be heterogeneous there will also be different levels of knowledge concerning the topic and the content. Therefore it might be useful to design and provide resources for beginners, for advanced learners as well as experts. All resources should in addition be barrier-free and include gender-sensitive examples. It’s also important to keep in mind that reading on the screen is not common to digital immigrants and that a master template helps participants find their way through the course content.  As communication (category 6) is one key for students’ interaction, it’s important to open spaces for communication processes within (e.g. via forums, chats, wikis) and outside the course (e. g. via a twitter hashtag) and to set rules for the discussions (“netiquette” or “chatiquette”). [28, 29] Teachers should encourage the students to start discussions and to open their own communication ways (e.g. groups or circles in social networks). To avoid discussions petering out teachers (or etutors) can be present in the forum or chat and give communicative impulses. For teachers it might also be useful to create a newsletter in order to inform students about the course schedule, new content etc. When planning a synchronous meeting time zones should be considered. Some of the points mentioned above depend on the last category, namely the available resources. It makes a difference if a teacher has the possibility to fall back on e-tutors or other people who can help designing and managing the course: an IT-expert to create the videos, colleagues to work in teams or guest teachers and speakers etc. When planning a MOOC it is important to allow extra time for doing research (“openness of the materials”) and creating resources, for testing the new materials, for answering to students’ questions and finally for promoting the course. If you plan to do the course more than one time, it might be reasonable to ask students for their feedback and to document all experiences in a blog or on social networks that could afterward also be the basis of a scientific publication.  IV. DISCUSSION
The proposed checklist is a first attempt to assist future MOOC producers as well as MOOC administrators with an overview about the most relevant aspects, which should be taken into account. Nevertheless some crucial facts help to understand the strength and weakness of the checklist: • Assistance: The checklist was done to support educators doing a first Massive Open Online Course. The main idea is that an as much as possible complete list is provided addressing all relevant technical, didactical and administrative aspects. On the one hand the checklist points out how complex the planning phase of an online course is.
On the other hand it should motivate teachers and administrators doing a MOOC since all relevant facts are listed. Importance of the issues: The checklist is not an obligatory list. With other words, the educators or administrators have to decide if a listed issue is relevant for their courses. The proposed list is following the idea of covering all issues seen within different MOOCs worldwide. Completeness: The checklist will never be finished, as forthcoming MOOCs will address new elements and carry out new technical, didactical or administrative ideas. The authors consider the list as a first starting point, which has to be improved or adapted in an on-going process. CONCLUSION
xMOOCs are a trendy phenomenon these days and a number of different platforms are developed offering such courses. Nevertheless the most important step towards online education is, of course, the content itself. Bearing in mind that developing online content is very time consuming and has to follow design principles  as well as didactical aspects, it is not easy to address all issues necessary for a successful online course. In this research study the authors tried to carry out an as much as possible complete checklist for doing a MOOC. It can be summarized that this list is not carved in stone; it must be seen as a first proposal for further discussion and research work. Future research will address experiences practitioners gathered with the proposed list in order to adapt and improve it. Acknowledgements We like to express our gratitude to the the federal state government of Styria for funding the project with the so called “Zukunftsfonds Steiermark” as well as the two universities located in Graz – the University of Graz as well as Graz University of Technology. We are equally indebted to the whole iMooX team who is working hard but with full enthusiasm on the idea bringing education to the whole society at least in Austria. References
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