Wednesday, 1 May 2013

What makes a good MOOC?

We have seen what makes a MOOC. Not all MOOCs are created equal though. So, what makes a good MOOC?

First and foremost, a good MOOC is a good course. Most of the criteria are not specific to the new medium.

General  criteria:

  • Pedagogy

It seems obvious but getting the basics right is by far the best way to ensure a MOOC avoids seeing too many dropouts and stays ‘massive’ until the end of the course.

  • Professor’s aura

In MOOCs as in the brick and mortar world, a star professor makes a big difference.

  • Quality and availability of teaching staff

The organisation of office hours and supervision of class forums require dedicated teaching assistants and other support both of which can have a big impact on the perceived quality of a course.

  • Academic rigor

A TV documentary is not a course. A quality course needs to set clear objectives for what will be taught, making relevant reference to research or industry practices along the way. The homework and exams should reflect this, with projects (essays, computer programs, etc.) for student to complete, leading to a challenging yet attainable certificate of completion.

  • Student body

A diverse student body, eager to learn about the course topic is an essential ingredient a lively forum, quality peer-assessment and interesting office hours.

  • Corporate sponsors

A course offered in association with a corporate backer speaks both to the relevance of the teachings to industry but also to the worth of future graduates in the job market.

Specific criteria:

  • Interactivity

One of the key success factors for a MOOC is to make participant feel that they are not alone in front of their computer but rather part of a global learning community.

  • Technical platform

The quality of the MOOC platform has an impact on how smooth the students will perceive the course participation to be (relevance of emails, forums, downloadable videos, overall ease of use of the course website, etc.)

  • Production value

Movies started off as filmed theatre plays before cinematography evolved into something very different. Similarly, MOOCs are evolving into something very different from a filmed in-class lecture. The best courses use a host of techniques to maintain students engaged (in-video quizzes, interviews, camera angle-changes, etc.).

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