How would MOOCs be designed and structured differently?

Thanks to Doug Holton for opinion The case for learning designers.

What should be the role of instructors in learning design in MOOCs?  How should MOOCs be designed and delivered?

My early learning experience with CCK08 and subsequent learning experiences with CCKs and Change11 was that over-design of a course would not be able to cater for the needs of massive number of participants.  Successful MOOCs (cMOOCs) need to factor emergence (emergent knowledge and learning) in the design and delivery of the “course” and “event”.  It is based on a continuous feedback loop with distributed learning networks, just in time learning- with participants’ active contribution of content, and co-design of the conversation and engagement of instructors, facilitators and clusters of self-organised participants.

Image on Comment Ecosystem: From CCKs course postings.


Most xMOOCs are not built with that in mind, and so those courses are highly structured, often planned in a linear fashion, and thus only afford the prescriptive knowledge to be consumed by the participants, governed by the video lectures, some quizzes, and posted readings.

I reckon learning designers have often pre-conceived with a one size “suits” all sort of tool box online learning with learning object, that may be highly suitable for closed LMS with specific learning outcomes sort of courses.  Would such a design meet the needs of huge cohorts of learners?  I reckon a certain level of customization is needed as participants are coming from a diverse background.

Despite the large number of successful completion (though a relatively 5 – 15% completion rate) in the xMOOCs, I still think the original course design and pedagogy would impact on the course delivery and completion.

Would this explain why more than 80% participants are not completing the course, as they don’t see much need for their contribution or engagement in the course?  Even if they want to do so, there is simply no means for them to be involved except by joining the study group or posting on the discussion boards, where their voices would seldom be heard as these postings would only attract attention if they are voted up (for attention to be given).  Besides, as revealed in the various studies about xMOOCs, many of the participants (could be as much as 40-50%) are degree holders.  This may imply that many of the participants would be following their own set learning goals, learning pathway, and methodologies in their learning, rather than the “linear” progressive Mastery Learning.

Indeed, I have tried watching some of the videos of the xMOOCs and have often skipped the various portions of the videos where I don’t find relevance to my needs or learning.  I would also be browsing through, pausing, or rewinding certain parts of the video when I am just interested in certain part of the section for my learning.  This is similar to the learning via Youtube educational videos, or the TED talks.   Wouldn’t it be true that many participants of xMOOCs would likely do the same, in order to optimize and customize their own education and learning in a MOOC?

Would some of these participants be designing their own learning pathway (i.e. within MOOC) sub-consciously throughout their MOOC engagement?

It is interesting to note that the DS106 and the EDUMOOCs (an xMOOC) are structured as Connectivist and Cognitivist/Connectivist courses (as perceived by this participant), and analysed here.  As I have shared in the past posts, it appears more xMOOCs would be designed with some of the social constructivist and connectivist principles, even though they are conceptually designed with a linear learning pathway with structured content.

Why?  Massive participants have a diverse experience, skills level and background, and thus they would seldom participate with the same entry or exit points, except for the assessment or examination.

Isn’t it time for the MOOC providers to review the learning design so as to ensure the course is built on a flexible emergent design, rather than a rigid, one size suits all online course principle?   Otherwise, there would be a “constant” drop-out or low completion rate, as participants don’t feel their involvement or engagement in the learning community and course design, especially in the xMOOCs.  There are also power and autonomy factors, which would continue to influence the way participants would engage or not engage in the course, especially when participants don’t find any power or autonomy over their learning over the course.

5 thoughts on “How would MOOCs be designed and structured differently?

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