I was asked by my institution to develop the following document to give administrators, faculty, and staff initial talking points when thinking about launching MOOCs. Thus, this one-page executive summary is succinct and diplomatic (see e.g., “What’s the Business Model?”), but many of the resources and thinkers I’ve cited are well worth the read. As a disclaimer, this post in no way means that I think MOOCs (especially xMOOCs) are saving, revolutionizing, or destroying higher education. I’m personally much more enamored with and invested in the “first O” as Clay Shirky describes it.
Important Considerations for A Campus First Offering Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs]
Considerations for Campus-Level Administrators:
- How to Launch?
- The purpose and vision should be articulated directly by key decision makers and clearly align with larger institutional objectives and values such as those related to the on-campus “liberal education” (see e.g., Vanderbilt’s Chancellor’s Message).
- Involve faculty early. Delivering content this way requires a new skill set for most faculty and their willingness to learn, innovate, and offer feedback to their peers is integral to the process.
- How Many to Start With?
- Most member institutions start with around 5-10 “proof-of-concept” courses that highlight the best content they have to offer.
- Many institutions seek to offer a diversity of courses as well as those that may appeal to a wide audience or showcase unique content.
- How Many Resources to Commit?
- Developing MOOCs is a labor- and resource-intensive task that is normally supported by a team including a videographer, instructional designer, and teaching assistant. Coursera estimates that each course costs $25,000-$50,000 to develop.
- What’s the Business Model?
- Potential revenue streams include licensing courses to other institutions, charging for “verified” completion certificates, and/or offering courses for-credit.
Considerations for Department-Level Administrators:
- Which Courses to Start With?
- Member institutions use a range of procedures to determine this such as: (1) faculty self-nominate courses which are then endorsed by departments, deans, curriculum committees, and given final approval by the provost (e.g., one, two); (2) a MOOC course review committee, often headed by a director of online education, works with deans and departments to select courses (e.g., one); or (3) nominations are made by deans and approved by a provost-led MOOC committee (e.g., one).
- Which Faculty to Start With?
- Some considerations include faculty members’ existing course load and upcoming research deadlines, experience teaching online, and willingness to commit long-term.
Considerations for Faculty:
- What Is It Like to Teach a Course?
- Most courses are 5 to 10 weeks in length with 2 hours of “lecture” each week.
- Screencasting (e.g., talking-head or voice-over narration) and videography are usually key components. Most courses are comprised of 10-20 minute video lectures interspersed with brief quizzes, online discussion forums, and/or other online activities.
- More than 10,000 students regularly enroll in these courses although only 10% finish on average (or less). Thus, direct communication with students is generally limited to interactions in online forums and most assessment is done via automatically graded quizzes or peer reviews.
- How Much Time Does It Take?
- Developing a MOOC is labor-intensive (estimates of over 100 hours of development time are common), but many instructors have gained a worldwide following and cross-institutional partnerships as a result of teaching such courses. Additionally, materials and uses of technology developed in MOOCs are often also used to enhance regular on-campus courses (e.g., using recorded lectures to “flip” the classroom).
- Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller’s presentation at Vanderbilt
- What is a MOOC?
- Coursera FAQs
- An excellent curated list of MOOC resources and articles by Jim Julius.
Image credit: giulia.forsythe
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