Linking resources with a flow of learning! Designing activities. Stimulating the MOOC

This issue is perhaps the one that make a MOOC course less different than an online Moodle, or a hybrid course or even a merely lectures (presencial). However, it is important to note some important differences.

The flow and dynamics

Remember that we start with an analysis and a previoues reflexion, done the second part (Let's plan a MOOC), where we have had an idea, maybe we framed the course in a broader context, and where we have made a first design of the syllabus.

We have provided a lot of information (probably too much, and much more that you can find by browsing the infinite sea of ​​the Internet) about MOOCs. Surely you found many reflexions, suggestions and criticisms about how to sew all these contents so the participants will learn using the MOOC, and they do not leave. Because one of the main problems is just minimize abandonment, sometimes it is seen as one of the major negative characteristics of a MOOC.

Dropping out occurs primarily for three reasons:
  1. - Because course contents do not meet the expectations for the participant
  2. - Because of work demanding during the course: there are tests with multiple choice activities or other activities that involve a task force. More work than the mere consumption of video, text or presentation
  3. - Because the participant is registered in the course purely out of curiosity to see what it was about. They only take a look at the first issue (like looking the first pages of a book in a bookstore). In fact this is one of the main reasons ( being the course registration free)

Therefore the following items (evaluation, promotion, collaboration) have as one of the objectives to maintain the attractiveness and interest of the participants. When someone is registered (for free!) in a MOOC it is becaouse he/she found a appealing MOOC title, the viral or presentation video was good and because he/she wants to receive the contents. But after the first issue we need to keep the attractiveness and interest of it.

One of the features of the MOOC, by our experience, is the definition of periods for each input and output module. A module can expire (or make it read-only) on a specific date, or you can leave it opened until the end. As the registration on a MOOC usually is not restricted to the starting date of the course, but they could register at any time, it is allowing that modules opens slowly (for example, per week), but closing altogether to the end or shortly before the end of the course. The evaluation is based on tests are multiple choice or p2p with is no need of direct professor intervention and so not linked to a specific date.

Except for a MOOC course corresponding to a massive virtualization of existing course, or an introductory course to high school, there is no clear referent of which contents that students must achieve and which level of content need to be acquired. This can be a difficulty, but also an opportunity, as we discussed in Item 1: it is important to distinguish the proposed MOOC, make it different from others to occupy a place in the market.

This freedom deciding the theme gives us the freedom when ordered chronologically the different modules, with or without starting and ending dates. As we said, the best way is design modules which are self-contained and not depending to one each other. We always think that the participants are interested in a module, so that they will follow the correct chronology not sailing out of order.

Some tips (simple)

If you are preparing a new course you will take care that modules present similar difficulties, but keeping some heterogeneity to diversify the learning experience.

The first module, the one that makes participants decide to continue, should be design without making it too difficult, but also not to make it too easy in order not to give a false impression. It should be particularly attractive, so that participants have the feeling that they are learning something that particularly motivates him so it makes him to go on with the course. For example, in the our course Magic and Science, each module begins with an intriguing game for the participant ... and it is explained after two or three modules! It is a special case, but this idea can also be applied to other courses: left for a further enigma, a key ... We need to buy the loyalty of participants.

Students must be encouraged to complete the course, they should receive some reward. It can consist in some key information during the last module, or some particularly attractive content, or even a prize in kind (virtual, of course: a registration for another course, chose some activity, etc.) Remember that, unlike a formal course, at least for now, students make a MOOC because the want. They are not interested in achieving credits that lead to the achievement of a qualification required for professional practice.

It is very commendable to think in an academic approach where the participant account for all the content. But as a classroom course, but even more than ever, we must keep the attention of the participant. We need to have many strategies to keep almost a constant attention.

Closely linked to the fact that we want students not dropping out the design of the evaluation is really very important. This will be analyses in the next issue, but we need to take into account that we can not start with heavy assessments (delivering works as P2P) during the first issue. Evaluation is necessary, as it gives more credibility to the course, but it should be easy to overcome.

Planning for skills

There is a lot of literature on the skills, and the ICE of the different universities they have strong training task on this particular issue. As an example the notebooks that Univesitat de Girona has collect for professors in the framework of the Bologna Process. They can be found on the website of the UdG: "Guia per a l’adaptació a l’espai europeu d’educació superior de la Universitat de Girona"

Related to the present topic, notebooks 1, 2 and 8 (skills, competencies and management of teaching Girona, respectively) are really important. These documents makes it clear that any activity, task or resource should answer the question "which skill is helped to achieve?" As mentioned before, in a MOOC one must also ask "how it helps the participant to continue the course and keep on the motivation?".

It should be stressed again that freedom of topic of the MOOCs makes rethinking skills could changed a lot from course to another. An example would be the two chemistry MOOCs we have been currently working: "Descubriendo la Química" and "Química Zero". The first course is closely linked to the history of chemistry skills are design in a very different way than those for "Químcia Zero". In the latter, aimed at pre-university students, planning skills is perhaps one of the most important issue, as it is directly linked to the curriculum.

The abandonment and the perseverance

The MOOC involve a process of interaction between the students, so one of the reasons that can lead to stopping or continuing is precisely the assessment and reflection activities.

First tests allow to the participant verifies the acquisition of content and at the same time to let them acquiring by repeating tests (if allowed). Participants should feel rewarded for having gone through some content and have acquired some konownledge. Multiple choice tests are very helpful.

P2p jobs are a good tool for students to learn if it facilitates to comment the work of other students beyond evaluating them or giving them an "OK". Correcting someone else work is a great way to learn! But we need to be careful, as will be seen in another topic, we need not to charge the participant with many P2P corrections and works, because they are one of the major withdrawal elements. We will see that one of the main keys to correct this works is having a very well ruled information about the items to be considered. This will help to these students to be more involved in P2P correction and therefore less abandonment.

The proof of progress

One of the main differences between platforms is the use of video. In Coursera, for example, must actually complete the viewing of a video to go forward, and there are usually some interspersed questions during the process of vision of the video to assess the student progress and the understanding of concepts. MiriadaX in contrast, the video is based on Youtube and can not confirm the video has been watched effectively and it can not carry out activities with interlaced video (obviously this can be replaced by very short videos and making activities between test sub).

Indeed the issue of video recorded and the possible annotation on it, was the subject of a conference in Malaga last march "Third International Workshop on Multimedia Creations MOOC with Annotations" http://gtea.uma.es/congresos. This bring a very nice toll for students to cooperate using annotations and comments directly within the video.

The content of this issue is one of the issues currently being discussed more regarding MOOCs, apart from the more political question of the fit of the current structure MOOCs and education policies top. For example, last spring, in Lausanne Congress on MOOCs eMOOCs2014 (http://emoocs2014.eu), there were a track on experiences: http://www.emoocs2014.eu/node/29

Among the many resources available on the network, you can look for MOOC courses to learn Moodle which can be very instructive because it gives clues of how to join the resources like in Moodle, and how to maintain interest in learning Moodle (although we are sure that the participant is motivated by a professional interest a part of be quite attractive). Here are two examples of MOOC Moodle courses:

Moodle MOOC 3 - http://www.wiziq.com/course/36159-mooc-3

Learn Moodle - http://learn.moodle.net

Finally we would like to mention some MOOC, that beyond teach and beyond creating community aims to become something more: for example, the course "The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education."(http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/page-two/mooc-mooc-dark-underbelly/) it is said:

Education needs different objectives than it did when the current system was invented; and so, just as we would for a course with an evolving set of outcomes, we must continually rewrite the syllabus of education. Cathy’s MOOC proposes one space for that revision to begin — and it is a branching, disparate, distributed space, not localized inside her course alone. It is, as she has said, not a MOOC, but a movement.
What we’re announcing here is a node of the #FutureEd festivities, centering around weekly #moocmooc Twitter chats. The topics will be emergent, rising directly out of conversations generated during the various offsprings of#FutureEd. The times for these chats will alternate each Wednesday during the course to allow for more global participation. This will be a meta-meta-MOOC, a MOOC MOOC about Cathy’s already meta-MOOC.
You will find also forum to discuss "Flipping Online - Maintaining the in-class feel." But we need to have in mind that there may be a MOOC students which do not feel comfortable to attend in person a lecture. Perhaps MOOC can be adapt to do some optional activities for face-to-face courses.