MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. MOOC is relatively new phenomenon as the first course carrying the name MOOC was offered in 2008. The term MOOC was coined by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander, when a course called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”, designed and led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, attracted 25 fee-paying students on campus and 2,300 other students from general public who took the online class free of charge (Daniel, 2012). Even until today the definition of MOOC is keep evolving. The latest definition of MOOC is an online course aiming at large-scale participation and open access via the web. Typically MOOCs do not offer academic credit or charge tuition fees (Wikipedia, 2013).
MOOCs are divided into two branches, known as cMOOCs and xMOOCs. The two branches are so different, especially in aims and methods (Hill, 2012). Here we will focus particularly on the connectivist MOOCs or cMOOCs. McAuley, et al. (2010), defined cMOOCs by its characteristics as a MOOC integrates the connectivity of social networking, the facilitation of an acknowledged expert in a field of study, and a collection of freely online resources. Perhaps more importantly, however, a MOOC builds on the active engagement of several hundred to several thousand “students” who self-organize their participation according to learning goals, prior knowledge and skills, and common interests. One of the most recent cMOOC course is the “Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum” offered by Open Learning Design Studio or widely known as “OLDS MOOC”.
In this paper, I evaluate OLDS MOOC as an online course and investigate how it has incorporated the social pedagogical network theories i.e. connectivism, networked learning, and communities of practice. The evaluation was done by using Quality Online Course Initiative (QOCI) rubric and evaluation system developed by the Illinois Online Network (ION), University of Illinois.
OLDS MOOC is a nine-week course delivered from 10th January to 13th March 2013 on the topic of “Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum”. It is funded by JISC, a team of UK’s expert on digital technology for education and research. The course is expected to have 500-1000 participants.
The course is structured to reflect a proposed process for learning, and combines a number of design thinking methodologies, inquiry learning and educational design research. Nineteen experts in the field participated as facilitators. Dr. Yishay Mor of Open University, UK, led the team.
Nine topics were selected – one for each week. The course uses a “spine” to provide simple, effective and powerful learning practices, which consisted of a web page as the central point of activities, an announcement list to notify the activities and events, and an open discussion group to share experiences and thoughts.
Evaluation of OLDS MOOC
ION’s QOCI is a useful evaluation tool (rubric) to improve and evaluate online courses. It gives criteria for what makes a quality online course. The criteria are chunked into six categories: (1) instructional design; (2) communication, interaction, and collaboration; (3) student evaluation and assessment; (4) learner support and resources; (5) web design; and (6) course evaluation. OLDS MOOC is evaluated based on those categories and the result is listed below.
The OLDS MOOC course is carefully designed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills to the learner hrough the use of variety of instructional methods. It is very well structured, chunked, and provide a clear purpose in a way that helps learner to achieve the course objectives. Learning goals are explicitly stated, and the weekly module objectives are presented and aligned to the course. The course description gives clear information about the instructors, materials and content. A study planner is provided to guide learners to keep track of their learning. The course is a not-for-credit online course, therefore, credit hours and grading information is not present. One of the strength of this course was evident through its use of variety instructional strategies. The course delivery methods consistently accommodate multiple learning styles, and learners are provided with variety of ways to demonstrate their understanding. In terms of academic integrity the course shows us excellent example on copyright, fair use laws, and code of conduct.
Communication, Interaction, and Collaboration
As a cMOOC, this section is clearly the heart of OLDS MOOC. The course itself aims to provide highly interactive, constructive and collaborative learning experience. Activities on a MOOC, due to its massive number of participants, will rely on Student-Student communication and collaboration. This course, in this case, emphasizes the importance of learners providing feedback on peers work. Communication, interaction, and collaboration is organized using a number of different free tools and social networking platform. The tools and platforms used in the course are to support learners to find, connect, share, and discuss learning and teaching ideas. All of that are aligned well with the connectivism, networked learning and communities of practice theories. The nature of this course is project-based and collaborative. Learners are encouraged to join in teams to produce and share artefacts, and comment on peers’ production. A clear and concise information of group work outcomes and delivery dates is provided in the course.
Student Evaluation and Assessment
As a not-for-credit course, OLDS MOOC does not apply a specific grading scale. Instead, the course is using a unique type of assessment and evaluation called ‘Badges’. Achievement of a badge may be seen as evidence that an outcome has been achieved. The course uses multiple methods to assess learner’s achievement such as reflection, presentation, and project.
Learner Support and Resources
The course provided adequate amount of resources to support learners during their work. Learners are encouraged to enrich their knowledge by connecting to others and forming a local support group. As in communities of practice, the supports are not just coming from the instructor, but from peers and other resources as well.
The course website act as the ‘Spine’ and it is learners’ first point of call. From there, the course is link out to a number of different free tools and social networking platform. The spine uses a good consistency and provides a clear orientation throughout the site. The course is extensively explored the power of Web 2.0 and use it to create a new learning experience for the learners. The tools are not just for sharing but also allow learners to collaborate with each other in the learning activities.
The course provides opportunities for learners to comment and feedback throughout the course and discusses it with others. A specific feedback form and a major end of course survey to capture the learners’ experiences, suggestions, comments or reporting difficulties.
Discussion and Conclusion
OLDS MOOC is considered a cMOOC, because it includes the ability to connect with all previous user ideas and interactions. The course’ nature is project based, so it does have a community of practice feel to it (Mackenzie, 2013).
Overall, OLDS MOOC exceeds on most of the evaluation criteria and demonstrates best practices of an online course. Like other cMOOCs, OLDS MOOC is highly social. The learning comes from content presented by instructor, and then dialog via social media, where contributions of the participants are shared. Assessment comes from participation and reflection, without explicit contextualized practice.
With little direction from the instructors, OLDS MOOC really requires effective self-learners. The course assumes through process, learners will develop learning skills, and the philosophical underpinning is that learning is about making the connections oneself (Quinn, 2012).
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Wikipedia (2013). Massive open online course. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course accessed on 2013-03-17