Designing effective MOOCs Positional paper for the Design Issues and Participation in MOOCs Symposium at the Internationalization, Cross-border Education and E-learning Conference, Nicoria, Cyprus, 4-5th June 2015 Gráinne Conole, Bath Spa University, UK email@example.com MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have gained traction in recent years and a number of evaluations have been undertaken to ascertain how learners are participating in them and how they are learning. The original vision behind MOOCs was the idea of harnessing the potential of digital technologies to learn at scale through a network of peers. The original MOOC, CCK08, promoted a Connectivist approach to learning. Learners were encouraged to create their own Personalised Learning Environment and to engage with dialogue and exchange of ideas with their peers through appropriate social media. There was no formal learning pathway or correct set of prescribed tools; each learner adopted their own approach. This type of MOOC has been labelled a cMOOC. More recently we have seen the emergence of more individually focused, didactic MOOCs, where the emphasis is on learning primarily through content and video, supported by e- assessment elements. These MOOCs have been labelled xMOOCs. Opinions as to the value of MOOCs are divided. On a positive note they are free and hence are seen as potentially supporting social inclusion and providing an opportunity for participants to experience being part of a global community of peers. On a negative note, many point to the high drop out rates and low levels of participation and some feel that MOOCs are more about ‘learning income’ rather than ‘learning outcomes’, and that they are merely a marketing exercise. Indeed many institutions who have developed MOOCs state that there main reason is to get a feel for the MOOC experience and look at how it sits alongside their traditional educational offerings. However this division of MOOCs as either xMOOCs or cMOOCs is arguably too simple given the diversity of MOOCs we are now seeing. Conole (2014) has developed a classification schema for MOOCs, which consists of twelve dimensions (Tables 1). Each dimension can be seen as a spectrum, from little or no evidence of that dimension through to a significant amount. 1
Table 1: A twelve dimensional classification schema for MOOCs Dimension Description Context Open The degree to which the MOOC is open, ranging from closed Learning Management System courses which require the users to login and potentially pay for access through to completely open courses that use open source tools, where participants are encouraged to share their learning outputs using a creative commons license. Massive How large the MOOC is in terms of the number of participants, which may range from a few hundred to thousands. Diverse How diverse the participant population is; a small specialised course for local doctors for example is likely to be fairly homogenous in terms of the background and experience of the participants, in contrast a large MOOC on Art Aesthetics is likely to have a diverse participant population Learning Multimedia In terms of how much and what type of multimedia is used. Some MOOCs are primarily text-based whereas others make significant use of multimedia and have a high degree of interactivity. Communication This dimension describes the way in which participants are encourage to communicate with their peers and their tutors. This might range from limited use of discussion forums (which may or may not be moderated by the tutors), through to significant use of communication through a variety of social media tools. Collaboration This dimension refers to the ways in which participants are encourage to collaborate together, this might range from no collaboration (particularly in xMOOCs where participants primarily work through the materials on their own) through to significant collaboration with participants working in groups on a shared set of activities. These might be structured in a particular way, for example using the JIGSAW pedagogical pattern (Hernándex-Leo, Asensio-Pére z et al. 2010). In the JIGSAW approach, participants are grouped into teams of four, each member is assigned a part of a problem to research, once they have done this, they meet with others from other teams who have been looking at the same issue and share their knowledge and understanding. The final stage is that they return to their home team and share and combine their findings to complete the problem. Reflection Reflection is an important facet of learning (Dewey 1916). This dimension reflects the extent to which participants are encouraged to reflect on (and perhaps apply) their learning. Some MOOCs will not explicitly state this, whilst others might include statement such as ‘reflect on what you have learnt to date’ or ‘apply your understanding to your context’. Alternatively the participants might be encouraged to write reflective blogs and comment on the blog posts of other participants. Learning Some MOOCs, such as cMOOCs, deliberately do not have a specified pathway learning pathway through the materials, the emphasis is on participants creating their own learning pathway and Personal Learning Environments. Other MOOCs may have a prescribed learning pathway to guide the learners. Other still might have alternative learning pathways through the materials for example in 2
the form of a ‘MOOC-lite’ route or a more extensive route through the materials. Quality This dimension evidences the degree to which the MOOC when it is Assurance being design and in the evaluation of its delivery has an associated quality assurance process. This might range from no quality assurance, where the MOOC is developed by one or more teacher, through to some form of relatively informal peer review through to high quality assurance through a formal review process and a number of iterations and improvements. Certification This ranges from no certification associated with the MOOC, through to the assignment of badges on completion or different aspects of the MOOC or achievement of particular competences, through to certificates for participation or completion. Formal This is concerned with whether or not the MOOC is linked to a Learning formal educational offering. This can range from the MOOC being informal and optional through to perhaps being part of a formal educational offering, where MOOC participants learn alongside fee- paying students on a course. Autonomy This is the extent to which participants are expected to work individually through the MOOC and take control of their learning with little or no tutor support through to the participants being given a certain degree of tutor support. This might include forum moderation, or formative assessment on artefacts the participants produce. This classification schema has a number of uses. It can be used to describe a MOOC in terms of these twelve dimensions, and hence provide a mechanism to compare different MOOCs. Pedagogical approaches (Mayes and De Freitas 2004, Conole 2010) can be classified as:
Associative – where the focus is on the individual. It is about associating a stimulus with a response or in other words operant conditioning. Examples of ways in which technologies can facilitate associated pedagogies include drill and practice, and e-assessment. An example of an associative MOOC is a course on Chinese provided by the Open University.1 The MOOC is based around a series of podcasts and interactive assessment elements to test knowledge and understanding.
Cognitive – where the emphasis is on learning by experience a stimuli, with learners encourage to contemplate on their learning. An example of a construvisit MOOC is a coursera’s course on songwriting.2 The MOOC starts from the learner’s current level of experience.
examining participants existing level of knowledge of teaching and of design and builds on this as the course progresses.
Situative – where the emphasis is on learning in a context and through dialogue. Examples of how situative pedagogies can be facilitated include learning through virtual worlds. An example of a situative MOOC is a coursera course on Clinical Neurology.4 It is an applied, contextual course, intended to provide continuing professional development to professionals working in the field.
Connectivist – where the emphasis is on learning in a networked context, through a distributed community of peers. Learners create their own personal learning environment and repertoire of digital tools. This encourages reflective, personalised learning. An example of a Connectivist MOOC is the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course.5 Table 2 provides a comparison of these five MOOCs using the twelve dimensional classification schema, with quantification along each of the dimensions to indicate the degree to which they are present. Table 2: Comparison of five different MOOC courses The classification schema can also be used to design a MOOC, using the criteria for each of the dimensions as a starting point. This can be used in conjunction with the resources associated with the 7Cs of Learning Design framework, which considers seven aspects of the design process. 4 https://www.coursera.org/course/clinicalneurology 5 http://cck11.mooc.ca/ 4
Figure 1: The 7Cs of Learning Design Framework Figure 1 illustrates the 7Cs of Learning Design framework. The first C, Conceptualise, is about creating a vision for the course or module being designed. It helps the teacher/designer think about the nature of the learners who are likely to take the course or module, their age range, diversity, characteristics, skills, perceptions and aspirations. It is also about articulating the core principles associated with the course or module. The next four Cs are concerned with designing the resources and activities that the learners will engage with. The Create C helps the teacher/designer articulate what learning materials need to be created, whether these are text-base, interactive materials, podcasts or videos. In addition, it covers the use or repurposing of Open Educational Resources. Finally, the teacher/designer might also create some activities, which require the learners to create their own content. The Communicate C is concerned with methods to facilitate communication, between the learner and the tutor, the learner and their peers, and the broader community through social media. This might range from effective mechanisms for fostering discussion in a forum, through effective moderation, or looser communication through social media. Similarly, the Collaborate C is about fostering mechanisms to enable collaboration or group work. Finally, the Consider C, is concerned with ways in which reflection and demonstration of learning achievements can be promoted. Assessment might be diagnostic, formative or summative. The Combine C enables the teacher/designer to step back and reflect on the design process to date and look at the design from different perspectives. Finally, the Consolidate C is about implementing the design in a real-life context and evaluating its effectiveness. 5
Finally the schema can be used to evaluate how effective a MOOC is in terms of the extent to which the design is effectively implemented. Conclusion This paper has described a twelve dimensional classification schema for MOOCs, which can be used to design, describe and evaluate MOOCs. Five examples of different pedagogical MOOCs have been mapped against the schema. MOOCs represent a sign of the times; they instantiate an example of how technologies can disrupt the status quo of education and are a forewarning of further changes to come. Whether or not MOOCs will reach the potential hype currently being discussed is a mote point, what is clear is that we need to take them seriously. More importantly, for both MOOCs and traditional educational offerings we need to make more informed design decisions that are pedagogically effective, leading to an enhanced learner experience and ensuring quality assurance. Finally, the key value of MOOCs for me is that they are challenging traditional educational institutions and having to make them think 31 As a recent article states MOOCs are challenging traditional institutional business models about what they are offering, how it is distinctive and what the unique learner experience will be at their institution. As Cormier (2013) states: When we use the MOOC as a lens to examine Higher Education, some interesting things come to light. The question of the ‘reason’ for education comes into focus. Furthermore, UNESCO estimates that more than 100 million children can’t afford formal education.6 MOOCs provide them with a real lifeline to get above the poverty line. This, and the fact that MOOCs provide access to millions. As Creelman (2013) notes: Whatever you think of them they are opening up new learning opportunities for millions of people and that is really the main point of it all. So for me the value of MOOCs to promote social inclusion, coupled with them making traditional institutions look harder at what they are providing their students, signifies their importance as a disruptive technology. For me therefore, whether they survive or not, if they result in an opening up of education and a better quality of the learner experience that has got to be for the good. References 6 http://enikki.mitsubishi.or.jp/e/event/index6.html 6