Tutorial “All you need to know about MOOCs”

Before the real beginning of the conference, a tutorial was held by a few professors who all had already had an experience in MOOCs.

MOOC 101

H. Pongratz & S. Rohrer, Technische Universität München, Germany.

The basics of MOOCs, general remarks and some vocabulary which will be useful for the rest of the conference.

General Presentation

In November 2012, The New York Times described retrospectively 2012 as the year of the MOOC, regarding the quickly increasing number of users the MOOCs platforms obtained (for example Coursera reached 1,700,000 learners in less than one year)
The MOOCs are open and free of charge, except - in general - if you want to get a certification of completion.
There are mainly two different kinds of MOOCs : the cMOOCs, where the "c" stands for "connectivist", and the xMOOCs, which are more teacher-centered. The cMOOCs are network-based, and based on platforms where participants are able to share their knowledge. This theory of connectivism has been developed by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. At the opposite, xMOOCs are content-based and mostly structured like school courses (in this extent, xMOOCs may be considered as extensions of classical courses). Another acronym is currently developed : SPOC, which stands for Small Online Private Course.
MOOCs development is part of the current "Connected Age", the goal is to learn from others and share your knowledge and thought. It implies an evolution of learning and teaching, and enables knowledge to reach a lot more people. An international vision of education might certainly have to be developed. As you can reach more students, this situation is even more thriving to excellence. The massive aspect of MOOCs is also a unique asset for researchers in the domain of teaching, regarding the large amounts of data that you can get from the learner's interactions with platforms, see what their learning methods are, and finally adapt the teaching methods to reach more efficiency.
The terms of hybrid/blended can be used to characterize the solutions that trry to combine the advantages of classic classrooms and web-based learning. Some new teaching models are being developed, liked flipped classrooms (where the students read and learn their lessons at home, and course hours are dedicated to practicing), SPOCs...

The following graph (which I took from webducate.net) is the (simplified) Gartner Hype Cycle, a commonly used representation in IT concerning new trends and technologies, and shows the evolution of their maturity and uses in the society (for more explanations : wikipedia!)

Gartner hypercycle about MOOCs

Most of the researchers agree that MOOCs are close to the peak of inflated expecations; and some say the path to the through of disillusionment has already begun... One of the indicators used is the google trends graph on the research "mooc" (worldwide statistics, a more precise study could show the differences between countries, the USA are certainly a bit further in this cycle than european countries).

A few very important platforms already exist in the USA. Coursera's number of students is increasing very rapidly (and already has more the 6 million registered). This platform is a for-profit one. edX is the other big platform currently, and its software is open-source (this is thus possible for non-partners of this platform to take advantage of it). Udacity is still a majot platform, but it has changed its philosophy, and is now more lifelong-learning-oriented (it isn't directly built for students anymore).
The number of MOOCs platforms is proliferating these days, in all continents (we'll come back more precisely on Europe in the rest of the conference and, in a lesser extent, the other continents).

All these platforms meet the same barriers and problems currently, in terms of :

Management and business model

The second part of this conference was presented by H. Pongratz, and was more about the management related to the MOOCs.
There are lots of possibilities and options to create a MOOC, lots of platforms (sometimes free) are available. To make revenues, many possibilites are available too :

Some MOOCs navigators and aggregators are even developed, for example Class Central or this MOOCs search engine.

There are multiple cases in which MOOCs can be used : blended learning, flipped classrooms, preparatory courses, continuing education, part-time degree programs, basic teaching, and it could even be the "textbook of the future".

An example of platform has been showed, with edX. On this platform, lectures can be directly displayed like classical textbooks, some videos are included (usually available in HD, with the possibility to accelerate the video). There are some automatic solutions of translation of the courses (which are more or less performant). Sometimes the video stops and you have a question to answer (MCQ) before going to the next part. Forums are available, for the learners to discuss together. As lots of students want to ask questions to the teachers, votes are organized to know which ones are the most "important" for the students (otherwise there would not be enough time for the teacher to answer everything).

Among the main challenges the MOOCs creators will face next months/years this part of the conference added a new one : data protection. In EU, data protection laws exist and must be respected (data of the teachers, data of and about the learners,...). MOOCs creators have to know if these data can be transferred, especially to the USA. The business model isn't easy to chose concerning copyrights, the length of the contracts you sign with platforms providers; can you easily move the content from a platform to another? : the sustainability & lock-in effect have to be studied wisely. Also, a choice has to be made between local platforms (developed by a university for its own courses,...) and MOOC-platforms providers.

A SWOT analysis of MOOCs has been realized by Dennen and Chauhan in their article Shall We MOOC? to identify the critical factors about MOOCs (reputation, resources...).

Checklists are available for people who want to create a MOOC, for example on this website. Among the important components for a university are :

New technologies to enhance teaching

At the end of the conferences, another article has been mentionned, and its title shows the importance MOOCs might have : Beyond MOOCs: is IT creating a new, connected age?
S. Rohrer quoted someone she had met during a journey in San Francisco, about the way MOOCs have to be developed : "Ship it first, fix it later", showing this is an experimental process. MOOCs are a relatively new topic therefore two choices aree available: think a lot about how to act...or just act now to get some more experiment about it! This doesn’t mean that the philosophy of MOOCs is to go straight ahead without thinking about anything, but in this new topic we have to start trying solutions and see their effficiency.

A question asked after the speech was : "What is the role of a MOOC in a University?" Is it a substitution, a complement? From TUM point of view, nothing is definitive yet, we’ll see in the next years what are the possibilities. Another question which was opened is : "What is the connexion between the classical courses and MOOCs from a data point of view? To what extent do you have to transfer content? Does it make sense?" Once again the experiments are not complete enough to have a definitive solution.

The pedagogy of MOOCs: Tips and tricks

Hanneke Duisterwinkel, TUE (Eindhoven University of Technology).

A general point of view about MOOCs and pedagogy strategies (a bit Coursera-oriented the speaker said, as she has already had experience with this platform).

The goal is to focus on the learning process, in order to facilitate it. Two MOOCs are beginning in this university in April and fall 2014. From their experience, creating your first MOOC always takes a lot more time than expected! To develop it you need a structured team, including : a project MOOC leader, a professor and some supports (information expertise, video production, data expertise, community engagment...). In MOOCs as disruptive technologies: strategies for enhancing the learner experience and quality of MOOCs and other articles, Gráinne Conole enumerated the characteristics of a good learning : it encourages reflection, dialogue, collaboration, has to apply theory to practice, develops a community of peers, enables creativity, motivates the learners. All these aspects can be found in a MOOC, especially thanks to the forum. Another important principle is testing for learning : to learn you also have to repeat your knowledge, and make sure student understands a concept before going to the next ones. You can study the mastery learning concept to go further in this theory.
The key ingredients in a MOOC are lectures, communication, assessments and a good course design (especially for the lecturer). It can be based on screen-capture lectures, video-recorded classes... Concerning the videos, they have to be rather short (never more than 15 minutes), the teacher has to show enthusiasm and must be trained to make lectures in front of a camera (which is quite strange at the beginning!), using the body language, and animate his written text (in case he uses slides). A strong opening is required to attract learners, through an experience, live demonstrations...
Here is a video of Derek Muller at TED, explaining the key to effective educational science videos :

Among useful communication tools are email/announcements, discussion forums (which can be divided into three parts : discussion, issues, knowledge; using moderators to intervene if necessary, and have a sage environment.), google hangouts, social medias (also used to create a community of peers), meet-ups (mainly organised by students, sometimes by lecturers), course wiki (students creating some new knowledge). If the lecturer is too active on the forum, it might hindrance the activity of students. Haters and trollers (these two kinds of behaviours inherited from gaming) are both dangerous to the forums.

The evaluation can be realized with through-video quizzes, stand-alone quizzes, programming assignments, peer assessments (the specific rubrique necessary to explain how to do it has to be very complete). When writing the questions and instructions, remember lots of students aren’t native English, be very strict on English grammar in your questions. Solutions to fight against cheating, especially in peer assessments, have to be found.

Video Production : Do’s and don’ts

Patrick Jermann, EPFL moocs.epfl.ch

About 15 MOOCs are already available in EPFL. The stakeholders in these MOOCs know have a bit of experience to give us some feedbacks and advice about it, and especially about the videos production.

The first thing to know is that video production is just a little part in MOOCs process (which also contains the conception, designing, implementation...).
The EPFL is going to show us the options they chose for their own MOOCs, which of course doesn't make a lot of experience compared to other platforms.
The videos can be:

The teachers are the drivers in the production of the videos (this is different from classical approaches for example in television where animators are told almost everything they have to do). You only provide them a template, technical aspects and then let them all alone in the room to realize their videos. You also provide means to support their presence (animation on slides, a pointer...). Each teacher is different, you have to build confidence between him and the video production team to reassure him. Human aspect is very important in the realization of the videos.
The template consists in a few slides, for every course to have the same aspect at the beginning. It forces the teachers to redo a bit their course, sometimes to organize and think it different. The beginning is a title page, then afull shot (one full-page image welcome the student, tell who the professor is, explain the content of the lesson, summing up the most important parts). Concerning the content: the teacher doesn’t have to be on the screen all the time, it might be only written content, but try to always have a presence, some animation. A review session must always be made after doing a video, one week after for example. When several MOOCs are being created in parallel, the role of the video coordinator is very important to organize the occupation of the studio, welcome the professors...Sometimes studios are fully booked (in EPFL : 1 studio enables to realize 8 MOOCs in parallel).
The operations when doing videos are :

Between the video editor and the professor: implicit rules are always present (during the presentation for example : moving a card from the left to the right...).
Here are some approximative figures to have an idea of the amount of work required : a unit of a course is a video during about 7-15 min, which means 1 hour spent in studio, and 4 hours editing (roughly). As a full MOOC is about 7 weeks of 5 units, it means 35 hours in studio and 4 weeks editing. The human resources you have to manage and organize during this long process are important...

More concretely, the studio used to realize the videos is completely silent (no noise of traffic, echoes, ventilation...), its dimensions are 5*8*3m. It is quite flexibility : you can change the background, mobile workbench, is close to support team, and next to a preparation and debriefing space.
Among the materials used is a softronn Apple ProRes 422(LT). In memory, a MOOC is about 3 To of videos plus a backup (accessed with fibre), plus the archive. 10 Gb ethernet connections are used to connect to the video editing section. The camera is as small as possible in order not to be too impressive for the teacher. A prompter is also used if the teacher has memory problems, or is anxious in this situation (the prompter is an IPad with a projector, far enough from the teacher in order not to show that he is reading). To create interaction with the screes, an invisible hand can be used, or the hand of the teacher (which also shows some other parts of the screen, useful in maths for example). Rulers or protractors are also usable. For all these tools, the “invisible hand effect” is useful (your hand or ruler or... appears but you can see the rest of the screen through it, as its opacity is decreased).
An experiment with eye tracking was realized when students look at a video with the invisible hand effect. According to the results (with pre- and post-evaluation), people who follow the pointer understand the course better. Verbal references work as well (when telling a word, the gaze of the watcher might also go very quickly to this word).
Finally, about the learners' behaviour: there are lots of going forward and backward in the videos. It is possible to identify profiles of watchers, using graphs that show the probability of someone to leave a video at a given time. A quiz during the video is an opportunity for lots of watchers to leave it.