MOOC Design : from video production to data analysis the past two weeks, we have discussed about the main steps of the design of a MOOC. We started by project qualification and course ownership a couple of weeks ago. We then discussed about course design and assessment last week. Today, let’s talk about the final steps of the construction of a MOOC: resources design, course promotion, community management and post-mortem.

The production of the pedagogical content, activites, videos, quizzes, is one of the most time consuming steps of MOOC, and requires various skills [30]. Short videos are usually more successful because it may prove hard to maintain the attention of the viewers for more than fifteen minuts. Many websites [31] provide numerous openly licensed resources, music,  images, or videos, that may be used to illustrate course materials at no cost. There are filters in search parameters in websites like Google, Youtube or Soundcloud in order to find resources licensed in Creative Commons. Most of the time, illustrations from scientific journals or any copyrighted material cannot be used without prior autorisation. Getting an authorisation may require months and may not be free. Along with pedagogical content, very clear explanations on the functionning of the course such as tutorials and FAQ should be provided. Given the potentially high number of participants, the slighest ambiguity can trigger important amounts of questions and/or criticism.

It is possible to rely extensively on existing online resources. For instance, it is allowed to add hyperlinks in a MOOC without prior authorisation, and to embed Youtube and Dailymotion hosted videos in a formation as long as you abide by the terms of service. It is an easy and straightforward way to enrich the course without having to invest important amounts of money. Once the course resources have been produced, selected and reviewed, they should be integrated in the learning management system, and the promotion of the MOOC can begin.

The number of registrants that you will get depends upon various factors, mostly the topic of the class and the visibility of the platform that hosts the course. But the length of the recruitment period, the quality of the teaser and the efficiency of the communication plan, as well as the reputation of the institution of the teacher in charge may be influential. Most MOOCs rely on the visibility of the hosting platform, but some additional steps might be taken to promote the course if this hosting platform is not visible enough. Blogs, medias, and online advertisements are common tools for that purpose.

Paradoxally, running the course is not the most intensive step; it consists in two main tasks, on one hand project management, on on the other hand community management. Forums and social networks represent useful tools regarding these two tasks. They enable to detect any potential problem such as technical or organisational issues, but also to interact on the course content. Should the course become massive, it won’t be possible for the team to adress each and every question, it is advisable to provide clear explanations and to rely as much as possible on participants to reply to the questions of their peers. In addition to the forums, it is possible to use massive mailing along with the course info page to remind deadlines or to inform of some modifications. Some LMS allow personalized mailing, for instance to communicate with participants who registered  in specific tracks. 

Some simple indicators reflecting course activity should be followed over the duration of the MOOC. The relevance of such indicators depends of the course objectives, it may be the number of participants viewing the videos, interacting in the forums, or taking part in the activities. All those variables tend to vary over time [32]. All participants do not register for the same reasons, and it is unlikely that most of them will be active [33, 34]. A large proportion register but never show up, and many are just auditing, without taking part in the activities or posting on the forums. Following such indicators may help to detect any problem such as high drop out rates, even if it is not clear what the appropriate response is.

Once the course is over simple indicators of the course activity such as numbers of video views, or quizzes completed may provide insights over the course dynamics, but a deeper analysis will require a close look over the learning analytics, and skills in data management and data analysis. But to get appropriate feedback on resources, activities, and course design in general, it is needed to interact directly with participants via short interviews or surveys. In addition to valuable feedbacks, these surveys can provide interesting information on the course audience, their background (geographical origin, profession, etc), their motivations and their constraints.

In order to obtain high response rates and to avoid sampling bias, the team should communicate about those surveys. Ideally, they should share common student IDs with the learning analytics in order to cross link the information afterward, which can challenging if the survey is based on a tool external to the LMS that hosts the MOOC. It is advisable to share the results of those analysis and reflections through blog posts or whatever media that suits this purpose. It is useful for other MOOC designers, for the reputation of the course, and for the educationnaly community in general. Last but not least, the accessibilty of the pedagogical content once the course is over. In some cases, instructors decide to open the course archives, even if the forums are disabled, aiming at registrant that are interested by the pedagogical content itself rather than taking part in the proposed activities.

Designing a successful MOOC is a challenge. It requires an attractive topic, a feature-rich and visible hosting platform, engaging resources and activities. It may prove hard to gather an efficient team and to fulfill all the conditions of success, and most MOOCs do not reach their full potential. But once a course is successful, it is easy to scale it up, and to reach tens or hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Success depends mostly upon the dedication of the pedagogical team; poorly funded projects have sometimes proven extremely successful, and the other way is true. An important amount of research is carried out over the factors that influence participants engagement, and a close monitoring of research outputs will provide valuable insights to MOOC instructors [35].

[30] Coursera Resources Guide, Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching:

[31] Jamendo, Flickr, or Openclipart

[32] Breslow et al. Studying Learning in the worldwide classroom : research into edX’s first MOOC. Research and Practice in Assessment, vol.8, 2013

[33] Kizilcec, R. Piech, C., Schneider, E. Analyzing Learner Subpopulations in Massive Open Online Courses, Proceedings of third international conferenece on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, 2013 :

[34] Coursera takes a nuanced view of MOOCs dropout rates

[35] Open Education Europa. Experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs. e-learning papers 37 :

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