Adventures in MOOCs, Part I

Yes, my hiatus has been long and I apologize. It was for a good reason, I swear. I was helping to design and launch a MOOC.

Let me tell you the biggest thing I’ve learned from this experience thus far: plan it. Plan it like you’re planning the invasion of a small country. And then plan how to use your plans.

We didn’t have it bad, don’t get me wrong. Full support of the institution and administration, a fleet of iMacs, and yes, good plans. So we were in a good spot, and it didn’t take that long to put together, all things considered. But, if you’re thinking of putting a MOOC together – for any reason – here are a few of the things we learned along the way:

Plan.
I believe I mentioned this already. Give yourself enough time to allow for errors, re-shoots, re-builds, etc.

Research – and TRY – platforms for delivery.
If you’re going the free route – and who isn’t trying to do that, really? – you’ll want to try out several platforms to determine the strengths and limitations of each. We settled on the Canvas Network, but not because it was the only good option – there were many others. Do your homework and do a few tests before settling. If the whole world has the ability to see what you’re doing, you’re probably going to want to make sure it looks good. You wouldn’t wear a Slayer shirt to a wedding, right?

Outline the content organization.
Don’t just upload the content and then start moving things around. You’ll start to go a little crazy, and you can avoid this potentially time-sucking process by simply outlining where things should go, what they should be called, and how they should appear to the users.

Appoint someone to keep a constant eye on any interactive content.
If you have any content at all that fosters interaction (forums, Q & As, etc.), make sure you have someone moderating them on at least a semi-regular basis.

Finally, it occurred to me as we were developing this that, in addition to offering a great deal of valuable content for free, MOOCs are (and are often perceived as) largely a marketing tool for the institutions they represent. While this isn’t a bad thing by any means, I think it’s really important to make sure that it doesn’t just feel like a marketing tool to the people taking it. Moderation and interaction will go a long way toward keeping a MOOC out of “commercial” territory, which I think is a necessity if they’re to be taken seriously.

This may be our first dip in the massive open online pool, but it won’t be our last, so stay tuned. And if you want to take our MOOC, go here:

http://www.jmls.edu/veterans/clients/mooc.php

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