Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Built-in Breaks for MOOCs

I viewed this week's live session yesterday afternoon (I really wish there were an export to MP3 function, I know WIMBA, one of the products going into Blackboard Collaborate allows this...but anyway - this isn't the MOOC facilitator's fault). In any case, I don't have much to say this week about the topic, so I will be catching up with things that other people write.

I was brainstorming the other day and posted this on twitter
Idea for longer MOOCs like #change11, factor in one "break" or "catch-up" week for every 4 weeks of content
and it seems like a few people liked this idea.  If you look at the Change MOOC schedule you will see that it is a year-long MOOC, formatted around traditional Western university semesters (fall and spring) with a traditional Western Christian 2-week "break" around Christmas and New Year.   It seems like the scheduling design of MOOCs can be examined through the lens of Change.

Many people like the dip-in-jump-out design of current MOOCs, and MOOCs claim that they don't have a temporal time limit but if you look at the schedule I would argue that the schedule says otherwise - after all, part of what makes a MOOC interesting for me is being able to read blog posts of people who are in "my cohort" going through the materials with me. I can read the stuff and blog about it later, but it doesn't have as much impact because I won't necessarily have the same opportunities for discussion with Jane, Serena, Brainysmurf, Jaap and others as I would if I were following in real time.

Now, some people do dip-in-jump-out, others do not. Since we don't worry too much about time, the suggestion I have is this: every 3-4 weeks of content on the MOOC, give a 1 week break.  This way, people who want to catch up with other people's blogs and discussions can, and there is even more opportunity for assimilating, using and expanding on the materials provided - otherwise it really seems like a worldwind tour through the material.  We don't have any time constraints, we we could take a break to catch our breath :-)

Another idea in MOOC design is to make materials available on the Weekend before the start of the new module.  Many online courses I've had (for credit courses) gave us a couple of weeks worth of content at the same time so that if we had some downtime we could read ahead so we wouldn't be rushing in future weeks.  Since MOOCs are attended by people who have day-jobs it makes sense to release reading materials (if there are any) in advance. Again, MOOCs, it is said, have no time limit, so there shouldn't be pressure, but by having a schedule with defined weeks for topics would suggest otherwise, and our learning expectations have already been set by our previous experiences in classes (both online and face to face).

What would you do to improve MOOC course design?
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