Good practice in the design and delivery of MOOCs

We are currently evaluating the two MOOCs were are delivering on the FutureLearn platform. In addition, we are currently finalising material for a Technology-Enhanced Learning MOOC as part of the EMMA project. From the findings we have been able to derive the following good practice guides for the design and delivery of MOOCs.

  • Keep the MOOC relatively short; evaluation suggests that longer MOOCs result in high dropout rates and low learner satisfaction. Four to eight weeks is the recommended length of a MOOC.
  • Clearly articulate the number of anticipated learning hours per week; again keep these to a minimum; around 3 – 4 hours is recommended.
  • Have a clear and logical learning pathway.
  • Consider having core and extension activities.
  • Indicate the amount of learning time associated with each learning activity,
  • Make clear why participants are expected to use digital technologies (such as forums, wikis, blogs, etc.) and in particular clarify what are the perceived benefits. For example, wikis as a good means of collaborative working, blogs for reflection, or e-portfolios as a means of participants evidencing and collating how they have achieved the intended learning outcomes.
  • Keep video under 10 minutes, audio can be longer
  • Ensure that learning outcomes are indicated at the beginning of each week, use active verbs that are measurable.
  • Ensure content is coherent and logically structured, with a clear beginning, middle and end.
  • Indicate what, if any, tutor support is provided.
  • Articulate the pedagogical approach used, for example is reflective learning encouraged, or dialogic learning.
  • During design try and focus on activities rather than content.
  • Consider carefully what collaborative elements are included and how these are organised.
  • Try and ensure that each week is organized in the same way so that it is easy for the participants to orientate themselves.
  • Keep participants motivated and on track by providing a weekly email update, summarizing the key points covered and signposting to the following week’s activities.
  • Include mini quizzes at the end of each week, to enable participants to assess their learning.
  • Provide extension activities, which are both remedial and advanced in nature, to cater for a diversity of participants.  
  • Consider having a short (5 minutes) video introducing the week’s content and activities, this provides a more personal touch.
  • Have a number of synchronous hour-long sessions, perhaps one at the beginning of the MOOC to provide an overview and enable participants to outline what they hope to get out of the MOOC, one in the middle providing a space for Q&A and any points for clarification, and one at the end to provide a space to reflect on their experience.
  • Try and ensure that all the resources are open and CC licenced.
  • Provide a discussion thread on the forum to enable participants to introduce themselves, their experience of the subject to date and what they hope to get out of the participation in the MOOC.
  • Consider having a particular structure, for example:
  •  
  • Connect, Activate/Demonstrate, Consolidate
  • Connect – an introductory section to orient the participant to the week’s content and activities.
  • Activate/Demonstrate – the main focus of content and activities for the week.
  • Consolidate – the reflective element of the week, where participants reflect on what they have learnt and consider the relevance to their own practice.
  • Present, Apply, Review
  • Present:  Methods to present new material to students, or to encourage them to think it out for themselves.  This might involve facts, theories, concepts, stories or any other content.
  • Apply: Methods requiring students to apply the new material just presented to them.  This is the only way to ensure that students conceptualise the new material so that they can understand it, recall it, and use it appropriately in the future.
  • Review:  Methods to encourage students to recall former learning so as to clarify and focus on key points, ensure understanding, and to practice and check recall.
  • Use an appropriate mix of multimedia, ensure that images add something to the text, and consider the benefits of audio versus video. Audio is good as participants can listen to whilst doing other things, video is good if it shows or demonstrates something.
  • Try and ensure active participation as much as possible, for example: get participants to find and collate relevant resources, comment on the resource that others have uploaded, get them to write reflective blog posts and to comment on the blog posts written by peers, get them to participate in a discussion forum on a particular topic, or get them to work collaboratively in a group.
  • Enable participants to monitor their learning progress, by providing them with the ability to tick once activities are completed.
  • Consider personalising the learning experience, by providing audio feedback.
  • Ensure that there are clear signposts for navigation and labelling (i.e. have clear headings, make it easy for the participants to navigate around, etc. ).
  • Ensure that all the materials are accessible (variable fonts, suitable colours).
  • Ensure that all links work.
  • Ensure that all the activities are consistent with the platform’s functionality (i.e., discussion forum, feedback mechanisms).
  • Keep text simple and to a minimum.