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Teach Feast: MOOCs November 26, 2014

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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On Nov 21, the Friday before Thanksgiving, the Teaching and Technology Collaborative (TeachTech) hosted a one day series of workshops. These are my notes on the sessions I attended.

This session was presented by the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI)
There are some obvious reasons to do a MOOC:
it raises awareness of the University in general and the instructor in particular.
It builds community focused on the U, but not restricted to Michigan, or even to the US.
It can act as a sort of audition for prospective students: if they enjoy a MOOC and think the instructor was good, they may decide to come to the University for the chance to work with that instructor.
It generates revenue (students who choose to get verified pay a fee, and a fraction of that fee comes to the University and the instructor).
There are some not so obvious reasons as well:
There are stories from students who took a MOOC, and it gave them the confidence to go back to school or change careers.
It broadens the diversity of students the instructor gets to interact with (this is most helpful in smaller scale MOOCs, where interacting with students is still feasible.) Some instructors who travel hold office hours in the cities they travel to in order to meet their students.
Re-working the course to make it into a MOOC significantly improves the residential experience as well. It essentially forces the instructor to adopt a flipped classroom model, provides some resources to enable the development of new materials, and includes additional analytics and people to assess the effectiveness of the new resources.
There are some reasons NOT to do a MOOC
If you don’t have the personality for it! (you must be comfortable with the camera, the flipped classroom model, and the idea that what you are doing isn’t a lecture, it’s a screen art.)
If you don’t want to commit the large up-front time to develop the materials.
If you’re just jumping on the bandwagon.
Before developing a MOOC, you should consider the following:
Who are the learners you want to reach?
Is a MOOC the way to reach them, or is some other digital learning environment better?
Will what you want to do enhance the learner environment?
When dealing with a class of thousands, peer assessment is the only way to manage assessment. However, relying on peers to judge your work can be very frustrating. They may grade too harshly, or mis-interpret instructions. They may not take it serially, or finish the assessment.
MOOCs have a low completion rate. In some cases, it’s because people only stay in as long as they need to get what they want. You may want to consider a more flexible type of digital learning environment if that is a problem for you.
If you think you might want to develop a MOOC, DEI can help you. They have a “venture fund” to help instructors develop materials. There is a $10k stipend for development, and once the MOC is running, you can get paid through revenue sharing (though you should be aware that the amount of revenue varies widely.)
After you apply to develop a MOOC, the dean has to approve it. Once approved, it typically takes about 4 months to complete all of the development. The timeframe largely depends on the instructor though. They’ve had people work VERY hard and very long hours for 2 weeks, and they’ve had others who took almost 2 years.


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