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MOOCs in Higher Education: Options, Affordances & Potential Pitfalls

Apostolos Koutropoulos, MBA, MSIT, MEd, MA University of Massachusetts Boston

Pedagogies & Educational Philosophy

cMOOC (original MOOC) focus on constructivist and connectivist approaches to learning. Learning happens when students interact with authentic materials, in learner controlled spaces. cMOOC encourage active exploration on the part of the learner, sharing, and generative knowledge creation. The on-campus counterpart of this type of MOOC is the seminar. xMOOC focus mostly on


aspects of the cMOOC.

Role of the Instructor

cMOOC instructor roles revolve around the Instructor as Designer, and Instructor as More Knowledgeable Peer dimensions. This way, we think of cMOOC Instructors more as course facilitators, being where the action is. Its not uncommon to have weekly experts facilitate different xMOOC, currently, resemble television broadcast-based courses, cou-

didactic approaches to teaching. The instructor puts up lectures, which can be viewed by learners, then practiced and assessed in some sort of graded activity. Challenge: Bridging the gap between didactism and complete openness. Scaffolding learners to be life-long learners in Open En-

pled with the immediacy of the internet to expedite communication and connections with peers. Instructors are far more removed from the day-to-day activities of the MOOC, lending to a potential feeling of disconnect amongst the learners. Learners are actively discouraged from emailing instructor. Challenge: Breaking away from the safe zone of lectures is hard, but it needs to

vironments in order to pursue their own learning activities.

be done, in order to re-envision the role of the instructor in MOOC

cMOOC organizers can be considered as the DIY and BYOTech group of people. Each cMOOC is different in that it can use a variety of different technologies to accomplish their needs. Traditional LMS, such as Moodle and Blackboard, has been used, as well as technologies such as Wikis,

#FSLT12 - First Steps in Teaching and Learning. Moodle

Coursera - Gamification Course

Copyright & OER

cMOOC strive to be as open as possible. cMOOC creators try to use Open Content, as well as release the content created for the MOOC under an open license like Creative Commons. This is encapsulated in the 4 types of activities of cMOOC: Aggregate, Remix, Repurpose, Feed Forward. xMOOC tend to retain copyright of all material. A survey of the 3 big platforms (Coursera, Edx, Udacity) is strictly in opposition of the 4 original MOOC tenets. xMOOC are not actively creating OER to be repurposed for other educational ventures. Challenge & Pitfalls: Copyleft and production of OER are interesting issues in Higher Education these days. In addition to the pedagogy, and technological affordances, its important to pick a

Blogs, Twitter, gRSShopper, Wordpress, Google Groups, Google Hangouts and CloudWorks - just
to name a few. Technology is chosen based on the intended educational outcomes. xMOOC appear to be working mostly on standardized approach to delivering and assessing courses, using LMS-like technologies such as the Coursera, Udacity and EdX platforms. Intended educational outcomes, at times, need to fit within the confines of the technology used. STEM fields that benefit from simulations seem to be better off than the liberal arts in this respect. Challenge: A key challenge is to scaffold learners to work in Massive Online Environments, on their own or with teams. Motivation is a key factor in implementation. MOOC are not like a traditional online course, so the same motions from the learners dont necessarily apply. Learners need to be able to feel comfortable learning in MOOCs and different technologies. Distributed courses offer greater flexibility where technology molds around course outcomes, and not the other way around. This, however, increases complexity, and learners who are not prepared may feel overwhelmed and drop out. #gamesmooc - Shivtr Udacity - Statistics Course

MOOC that aligns itself with the Universitys core mission and beliefs around academic production.

Institutional vs Personal
MOOC efforts need to be faculty lead, not institutionally driven. This means that course design, technology selection and implementation needs to come from faculty, not to be based on which provider the University has a contract with. MOOC efforts need institutional support if they are going to succeed. A cohort of faculty can design a great MOOC, but the University needs to create conducive environments for MOOCs to #DS106 - WordPress Edx - AI Course flourish, especially with interdisciplinary topics. MOOC efforts need time for design and internal reflection. What works for one MOOC in one discipline may not work for other courses in other disciplines. MOOC are experimental! Learn from the experience and share your findings with peers.

Assessment & Credentialing

cMOOC generally dont provide forms of instructor assessment, however peer review, peer feedback, and remixing of knowledge and information are at the core of of the cMOOC identity. These peer reviews are by identifiable peers. There have been some MOOCs that have begun offering Open Badges as part of their credentialing process that reward learners for both staying the course, but also deviating from prescribed paths. Examples of this are Wileys #ioe12, JISCs #oldsmooc, and UCFs #blendkit. Only one MOOC to date, #mobimooc 2011, has given out certificates of participation to learners that meet certain criteria. xMOOC assessment focuses a lot on automated testing, and anonymous peer reviews. Participation in the course isnt counted as part of the assessment rubric, and helping your peers learn isnt, to date, a consideration. Anonymous peer reviews of work are matched automatically by the LMS, and since there is no oversight, peer review can be spotty. Students get a grade for posting something in a peer review. It is common to get a certificate of completion for the course if a learner achieves over a certain score on the assessments. Challenge: cMOOC seem more concerned about learning while xMOOC seem more interested in

When it hits the fan: Think of the Learner

Regardless of the MOOC you plan on offering, under no circumstances is it acceptable to just close the doors to the course because things arent working out. We saw this early in 2013 in #foemooc offered by Georgia Tech on Coursera. Just like in traditional courses, online and oncampus, if something isnt working in the course, modify it on the fly.

assessment. Assessment by a Subject Expert is difficult in Massive environments. What it means

to be assessed, and how this is done, needs a fundamental rethinking in the MOOC world. #CCK12 - gRSShopper Canvas Network - College Algebra Closing your courses doors is bad for the learner, and subsequently bad for your own reputation.