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Five essential components of MOOCs

Last week I successfully completed my second Coursera MOOC. I discovered that following a MOOC requires quite a bit of time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it! I am going to try to do quite a few more this year.

Some MOOCs, however, I did not enjoy as much as others. There was one I really wanted to complete, but unfortunately I ran out of time. Maybe next year.

I wondered how I would develop a MOOC myself. I think a good MOOC needs five components:

  1. The teacher should be an enthusiastic and clear speaker with a lot of knowledge about the subject. Use short pieces of video and repeat previously covered content in consecutive videos.
  2. Use beautiful, engaging content in your video and use a drawing tablet to edit the content with arrows, circles, text, etc. Include questions with feedback in the video every few minutes.
  3. Use well-made extra, free content. I was introduced to OLI (Open Learning Initiative, Carnegy Mellon University) in one of my MOOCs. This is an ideal way to study additional content and to practice through the use of ‘did-I-get-this’ questions and questions where you need to apply your knowledge.
  4. Interaction! Use peer reviews in addition to a forum. In peer reviews you upload your own exercises and you are required to review the work of a minimum number of others. Peer reviews are reliable enough and ideal to apply knowledge and to learn from the submissions of other participants.
    Peer reviews can be extended to peer group assessments in which you create a paper together with a chosen or randomly selected group of peers (of course there are more ways to organize this). The peer group assessment is reviewed in the same way as a regular peer review.
  5. Communicate clearly about things like the content of the MOOC, the structure and the level of difficulty. One of the MOOCs I followed was so difficult and time consuming that only a small group of people with the necessary prior knowledge was able to complete it. A clear and intuitive level-indication system can quickly solve such a problem.

I have noticed that MOOCs often use old-fashioned forms of education. There are often tight deadlines (a course has a fixed end date on which the test must be created and submitted), a teacher who explains and occasionally asks a question, reference material for reading, questions and answers to other students and ordinary tests. I would one day like to experiment with Scenario Based Learning as a test form in a MOOC.

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