[Note: On 28 Sep. 2012, Russell Poulin, Deputy Director, Research and Analysis, for WCET - WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, posted a question in WCET Discussions: "What is your experience in taking or teaching a MOOC? What are the 'lessons learned' that you have to share?" This article is based on Kae's response to the forum a few hours later. -Editor]
I just finished facilitating a Games Based Learning MOOC. We may be considered more “modest” as our total student count was 301. This MOOC was specifically for educators to learn about games based learning and is part of a Colorado Community College System Immersive and Games Based Learning Initiative Grant. The MOOC ran for six weeks.
I have taught (facilitated) courses at P2PU so the concept of open online was not new to me. I have also taken two of Stephen Downes and George Siemens’ Connectivist MOOCs. I lurked in Stanford’s AI MOOC last year and am currently participating in a Coursera MOOC.
So what are the lessons learned?
Participants in your course will have more than one style of learning online.
We had learners for whom this was the first online class ever. We also had veteran online instructors who were involved in emerging technology. Because of the topic we also had educators who are gamers and very involved online in rich interactive gaming communities. The Games Based Learning MOOC was designed as a connectivist course. It was setup up to build a community of educators who are learning online about games. The participants in the course seemed to be evenly split when it came to their online learning styles.
I ended up adding more structure for the educators who requested it. We had some who were very self-directed and wanted an independent study style experience. Other participants treated the site and the live online events like the salons of old where ideas were exchanged and debated. These participants were very comfortable online, had great online presence and had come to course with extensive experience using social media such as blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn for professional development. The educators from the gaming communities came with an expectation of synchronous online chats using text, VOIP, webcams and livestreaming desktops.
Lesson learned: You will have different online learning styles in your MOOC, and if your purpose is professional development, you can design to engage them. We will keep the connectivist discussion and curation of material. Since it fits our content of games based learning, we will have badges (see the avatar above) for those who want more structure and also as a way to demonstrate mastery of the material. For the educators who game, we have incorporated more online live participatory events.
Synchronous (live) events made a difference.
There are some participants who prefer their learning live even if it is online. There was an entirely different group of people who showed up for the weekly guest discussions, the Tweetchat and the livestream than were regularly posting in forums. There are some learners who prefer live online learning to asynchronous online learning. These are people who regularly use Skype, Google Hangout and VOIP.
Lesson learned: Record everything possible for participants who cannot make the sessions or who prefer to do the course as independent study. Some participants, even if they do not take part in the interaction, want to see the interaction. For participants who prefer live online events, incorporate these into your MOOC. Just remember that a live lecture online looks a lot like a live lecture F2F unless you incorporate a backchannel and other ways for people to participate.
There will be lurkers.
It is an open course. Thus, there will be learners who register and participate minimally online. Since this was a course that many of my colleagues were taking, I was given constant feedback from lurkers in the hallway, at regional meetings and conferences. I found out that each week’s topic was a lunch discussion at a department at one of the community colleges. I also found out that one of our online instructors, who was out of state over the summer, met up with a group of teachers in Portland once a week.
Lesson learned: There will be lurkers so make them feel welcome. Games based learning is a new topic for some educators. Lurking may be a way of processing new concepts and material. You can lurk and learn. We have incorporated the social network knowledge construction matrix to encourage lurkers to participate at the level they wish.
These are the lessons that are on the top of my mind right now. I’m sure there will be many more.
* Kae Novak is an Instructional Designer, Student Engagement and Assessment for Online Learning at Front Range Community College. She earned her Master of Educational Technology at Boise State University. She is currently the Principal Investigator for Games Based Learning MOOC project, which is part of the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) Immersive and Games-Based Learning Challenged Program. She is the instructional designer on two additional projects in that program, Teaching Business with WoW (World of Warcraft) and Project Outbreak. Kae is the chair elect for International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) SIG – Virtual Environments and on the Steering Committee for the Mobile Learning SIG. She has been the Program Chair for the Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference for the last two years which routinely draws over 2,000 educators each year. Kae is currently working with G.A.M.E. on a webinar series featuring educators who have been utilizing games in their classrooms.
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