MOOCs, Student Success, and Instructional Design

Picture of a compass.One of the common problems with online learning and MOOCs is student success and retention. Traditionally, there is a large gap between the success and retention rates of face-to-face and online courses. Just as some students need help in understanding how online education works (motivation, time management, study skills, etc.), students new to online learning will also need help in understanding how to successfully take a MOOC.

According to my research, the most common cause of this gap is lack of student preparation: students have spent 12 years learning to be face-to-face students and very little time learning how to be effective online learners. To address this in our online courses at various colleges I have worked for, I created a free, fully online, two-week courses, one for instance at College of the Redwoods, called DE 101 (Distance Education 101). This course addressed the technical and learning skills needed to be effective online learners. All of the technical and metacognitive skills needed to be successful were built into the assignments. The design for this course was based on a Health Information Management course that I designed and co-taught with Char Gore at Tacoma Community College. That course was designed to introduce students to new technology, learn how to leverage online technology for their education and professional development, create intelligent networks, and, even more significantly, how to manage technological change. My experiences with MOOCs has reinforced my conclusions:

  • Students need help in learning how to be independent, self-motivated learners.
  • The skills of successfully taking online courses can be taught.
  • Online courses can facilitate peer networks that not only help the students through a course but help them learn long after the course is over.

I would like to further develop these course materials into a MOOC for students (open to any college student or anyone interested in online teaching and learning), a handbook on peer learning and networks for students, and an instructional design guide and rubric for teachers interested in MOOCs. All of this would be under a CC-by license.

The MOOC will be facilitated and curated by instructors and student mentors, but the students will be guided towards taking a lead in research and discussions. The handbook on peer learning will be an on-going project in the MOOC and will be licensed with an open Creative Commons license, as will the instructional design guide and rubric. It has been my experience with the “traditional” online versions of these courses that even other instructors often wish to participate to help them learn more about how students learn online. It is not enough to build a course that demonstrates the features of a learning management system.

This project will not only help students learn to navigate the new world of online learning and MOOCs, but help instructors understand new roles for teachers as facilitators, curators, and guides to online learning. The links below map the growth of these ideas from the HIM course to DE 101 to what will become the eLearning 101 MOOC. I will be building this out in WordPress and will link the site from here.

If you are interested in participating or contributing to this project, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email.

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