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Do MOOCs need a Special Instructional Design?



MOOCs (as an acronym for Massive Open Online Courses) meanwhile engage universities not only in the USA but also in Europe. Currently one of the main questions that come along with MOOCs is if they do have an additional didactic benefit and if so how this benefit can be achieved. This paper therefore deals with the analysis of instructional design models and traditional learning theories with regard to their influence on the designing process of MOOCs. These analyses are enriched by initial experiences with providing the first Austrian MOOC offered at the first Austrian MOOC-platform. From these considerations results a pedagogical guideline for the practical development of MOOCs.
Michael Kopp, Elke Lackner
University of Graz (AUSTRIA)
MOOCs (as an acronym for Massive Open Online Courses) meanwhile engage universities not only in
the USA but also in Europe. Currently one of the main questions that come along with MOOCs is if
they do have an additional didactic benefit and if so how this benefit can be achieved. This paper
therefore deals with the analysis of instructional design models and traditional learning theories with
regard to their influence on the designing process of MOOCs. These analyses are enriched by initial
experiences with providing the first Austrian MOOC offered at the first Austrian MOOC-platform. From
these considerations results a pedagogical guideline for the practical development of MOOCs.
Keywords: MOOC, instructional design, pedagogical guideline.
MOOCs have been a trending topic since Laura Pappano declared in an article for The New York
Times [1] that 2012 was the year of the MOOC. The acronym MOOC stands for Massive Open Online
Course that is to say online courses for hundreds or thousands of learners as these courses are open
to everybody. Taking into consideration that the audience cannot be predicted in advance, this kind of
course needs to be well-planned in an organizational, technical, infrastructural and didactic manner.
Focusing on didactic aspects it seems obvious that every course needs to be instructionally designed
respecting different design principles and elements, as for example Scagnoli [2] or Richter [3] pointed
out summing up their tips and considerations about how to design a MOOC. But the real question is,
whether there are special instructional design principles that differ from design principles we used to
know from the context of traditional eLearning, e.g. online and blended learning, settings. By analyzing
instructional design models, comparing them with traditional learning theories as well as by
considering initial experiences with self-designed MOOCs the paper will give concrete answers to this
Being a teacher consists of more than teaching, there is also a high workload regarding the
preparation of didactically high-level units and post-processing, that is to say the preliminary and the
follow-up activities. There are several models of Instructional Design [4] that help teachers and
instructors finding their way through the conception of an effective learning environment, as Molenda
et al. (2003) [5] state: “Instructional design is a construct that refers to the principles and procedures
by which instructional materials, lessons, and whole systems can be developed in a consistent and
reliable fashion.” This holds for face-to-face as for virtual learning and teaching contexts. The following
parts of this section cover a) a short presentation of the most important and influential instructional
design models that were important for the development of our practical guideline (presented in section
4), b) a short overview of those learning theories mainly important for virtual learning environments
and finally c) the special challenges that occur when planning a MOOC.
2.1 Instructional Design Models
The origins of instructional design go back to the early 1940s, when psychologists and educators were
asked to develop and create training resources for military purposes. [6] One of the most known
models is the so-called ADDIE Model, which is described by Molenda (2003) [7] in the following way:
“What is emerging in the recent literature is a tendency to accept the ADDIE term as an umbrella term,
and then to go on to elaborate more fully fleshed-out models and narrative descriptions.” ADDIE is an
acronym for a five-stage-model, which is structured in a hierarchical and iterative way: Analysis
Design Development Implementation Evaluation. The different stages are more or less vague
so that they allow elaborating deeper theories. In fact, ADDIE describes the different stages of an
instructional design process. First you start with the analysis of the framework and the state-of-the-art,
and then you design the course and its elements (resources, activities etc.) before developing these
Proceedings of EDULEARN14 Conference
7th-9th July 2014, Barcelona, Spain
ISBN: 978-84-617-0557-3
elements. These conceptual phases are followed by the implementation, that is to say the practical
phase, before the evaluation of the course takes place. This model is iterative to such a degree as the
teacher can use the evaluation results to adopt or completely redesign the course according to a new
analysis. The ASSURE Model, developed by Heinich, Molenda, Russell and Smaldino in the late
1990s can be seen as a “media-oriented evolution of the ADDIE models” [4], consisting of six
elements: 1) to analyze learners, 2) to state objectives, 3) to select methods, media and materials, 4)
to utilize media and materials, 5) to require learner participation and 6) to evaluate and revise. [8]
One of the earliest models was established by Robert Gagné in his book Conditions of Learning
published in the 1960s. Gagné identified “nine events of instruction” [6] which “became a robust and
influential conceptual schema for the planning of lessons” [5]. These nine events are the following: “1)
Gaining attention, 2) Informing learners of the objective, 3) Stimulating recall of prior learning, 4)
Presenting the content, 5) Providing ‘learning guidance,’ 6) Eliciting performance, 7) Providing
feedback, 8) Assessing performance, 9) Enhancing retention and transfer” [9]. It can clearly be seen
the hierarchic structure of this model that is related to the learning outcomes described by Gagné.
According to him each learning outcome “required a different set of conditions to promote learning” [6].
In the late 1970s Walter Dick and Lou Carey presented a new model in their book The Systematic
Design of Instruction. [6] [10] Their systems approach model, also known as the Dick and Carey
Model, is not hierarchical or linear anymore but consists of different heterarchical parts. Instruction is
considered as a system and has to be seen in its interdependence to the context, the content and the
learning itself. There are ten different parts of this model that have to be seen as a system: 1) to
assess needs to identify goal(s), 2) to conduct instructional analysis, 3) to analyze learners and
contexts, 4) to write performance objectives, 5) to develop assessment instruments, 6) to develop an
instructional strategy, 7) to develop and select instructional materials, 8) to design and conduct the
formative evaluation of instruction, 9) to revise instruction and 10) to design and conduct summative
evaluation [10]. Instruction has therefore to be seen in its interdependence with the learner and the
context and underlies an iterative concept according to the evaluation results. Smith and Ragan
(1999) identify in their instructional design model three main parts, 1) the analysis, 2) the strategy
development and 3) the evaluation, but stress “the interwoven, nonlinear nature of actual design
activity” [11].
With the Morrison, Kemp and Ross Model (MKR) the learner becomes the focus of instructional
design procedures. There are nine parts of the model: 1) instructional problems, 2) learner
characteristics, 3) tasks analysis, 4) instructional objectives, 5) content sequencing, 6) instructional
strategies, 7) designing the message, 8) development of instruction and 9) evaluation instruments.
According to the authors “instructional design focuses on the individual and how to improve individual
performance rather than on what content to cover.” [12] Compared to the behaviorist model of Gagné
focusing on the outcomes the MKR Model focuses on the learners and their individual performance.
2.2 Traditional Learning Theories
As we can see the first instructional design models have a behaviorist and/or cognitivist background.
The behaviorist theory relies on the works of J. B. Watson, E. L. Thorndike and B. F. Skinner and has
its origins in the 19th century. Deriving from psychology, behaviorists believe that behavior can be
described by the outcomes without regarding internal processes. Observation holds a specific place in
this theory. Only observable behavior counts, the unobservable, e.g. thoughts and beliefs, do not play
any role. A stimulus is followed by a certain response. The invisible mechanisms that lead to the
response stay unobserved. Transferring this theory to learning and seeking for a behaviorist
explanation of the learning process one can state: “Learning is defined simply as the acquisition of
new behaviour.” [13] If learners get a positive feedback to their behavior, they are likely to adopt this
behavior and to react in the desired way. Behaviorist learning environments are teacher-centered and
focus on the instructional process and the learning outcomes. The learners learn by repeating certain
behaviors, e.g. by doing drilling activities. In (virtual) learning environments this learning theory is often
represented by multiple-choice or cloze quizzes and exercises that focus on the repetition of a certain
structure, a specific behavior or a solution that follows a given pattern. The main goal is to reproduce
factual knowledge (i.e. “know that”). This theory does not focus on the learning process itself, but the
output. Neither collaboration, nor interaction, nor creativity count. The learners’ personality and their
prior experiences, their knowledge and their strengths and weaknesses play a subordinate role in the
classroom. This means that the teaching process (i.e. instruction) and the content orientation are
central. The teacher is the owner and broker of knowledge and passes it to the learners. Students
passively “absorb” the knowledge and reproduce it.
The cognitivist learning theory, in contrast, focuses on the non-observable internal, i.e. mental,
procedures. The cognitivists believe that there are certain procedures and events between stimulus
and response that lead to learning. Information processing, memory, perception, and insight are
therefore cognitivist key concepts. One of the main representatives of this theory is the 20th century
psychologist J. Piaget. Whereas behaviorists are interested in the external behavior and the
environment as a key element, cognitivists are interested in cognition and internal processes. The
individual learners and their cognitive development should be of main interest for teachers.
Cognitivism is often described as model learning or learning by insight. Emotions and cognition are
involved in the teaching and learning context. Not the factual knowledge is important, but the
knowledge of methods, the so-called "know how". There is no one-way transfer, but a dialogue in the
classroom. The learners observe, the teachers demonstrate. Skills are acquired, the factual
knowledge moves into the background. Teachers no longer provide the knowledge, but help learners
forming their own skills following the trial and error principle. Selecting and applying the right methods
to achieve a certain goal is central. [14]
The cognitivism is already assigned to the category of social learning. The constructivism however
caters even more to social practices, the so-called "knowing in action". The interaction between the
learners is essential; they cooperate and develop knowledge and skills by working and reflecting
together. The constructivist approach is characterized by its focus on competences and the
management of complex situations. Learners learn for their practical life in a self-directed and self-
organized way. They have to take responsibility for their decisions. The teachers’ role is to moderate
the learning process. They provide the learners with different knowledge sources and resources,
according to the different types of learners and the different knowledge and skill levels. The materials
should be interactive, multimedia or multi-modal. The emphasis is on the self-activity rather than on
external control. These materials should build on prior knowledge and promote problem-based
learning and should take into account multiple contexts and perspectives. Teachers accompany the
learning process. The students’ interaction and communication (e.g. via forum, chat, or email) count.
As a methodological approach case studies or problem-based learning can be named. The aim is to
transfer acquired skills and competencies to other contexts (e.g. informal or non-university contexts).
The social component and therefore the learning individual (and its prior knowledge and specific
experiences) holds an essential place in this approach. What the result of a learning process looks
like, depends strongly on the learning subject, its sociocultural, but also its economic and ethical
background. This constructivist approach has strongly influenced the field of e-learning and vice versa.
The demand to provide different materials for different learners and levels can easily be met with a
learning management system that offers the possibility to integrate communication media, such as
forums or chats, and thus to promote the exchange between the learners. [14]
2.3 MOOCs and learning theories
In the context of MOOCs as provided, amongst others, by Iversity (, Coursera
(, EdX ( or Udacity ( however, a relatively new
learning theory was generated: the so-called connectivism.
2.3.1 Connectivism
The connectivist theory goes back to the Canadian G. Siemens, who believes that learners are not
isolated but connected individuals. Siemens emphasizes that the above mentioned traditional theories
“were developed in a time when learning was not impacted through technology” [15]. Siemens named
the connectivism a learning theory for the digital age [15] where the learner’s connections count. For
the learning process it is crucial to maintain connections or networks to other people, i.e. human
resources, but also to non-human resources, e.g. a database. These connections are linked via nodes
which create a learning network. In its center is neither the behaviorist “know that” nor the cognitivist
“know how”, but the “know where”. In the digital information society knowledge grows very fast. So it is
important to know where to find information and knowledge as in “many fields the life of knowledge is
now measured in months and years” [15]. Siemens states amongst others a lifelong mobility and
learning experience of the individual and believes that informal learning plays an essential role in our
nowadays society as the learning process “occurs in a variety of ways through communities of
practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks” [15]. Technology is as
important for our learning as it “is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our
thinking.” [15] For the learning, this evolution means that some “of the processes previously handled
by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or
supported by, technology.” [15] [16] Just as the half-life of knowledge is decreasing, it is important to
develop a meta-competence: “New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw
distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new
information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical” [15]. It is
important for learners to be able to make connections between different fields of knowledge and
competencies. The social networks and social media help to create these connections. The “cycle of
knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in
their field through the connections they have formed” [15]. The learning process therefore consists of
creating links, strengthening and also maintaining them. Not the acquisition of knowledge counts, but
to create knowledge networks.
2.3.2 cMOOCs vs. xMOOCs
The hype about MOOCs started some years ago, in 2008, when Siemens and S. Downes held their
course Connectivism and Connected Knowledge. Their course-setting was new: Twenty-five
matriculated students took the course for fee and for credit while another 2,300 participated as ‘open’
enrollees.” [17] The first, so-called, cMOOC took place. Some years later, in 2011, S. Thrun gave his
lecture Introduction to Artificial Intelligence at the Stanford University and reached over 160.000
enrolled students. [18] The xMOOC was then born. What these two course types, the cMOOC and the
xMOOC, have in common, is the fact, that both are pure online courses and massively attended as
they are open to everybody. Open in that case means that the courses are free and open access. In
the best sense it would also mean open content, even though most of the materials and resources are
not open educational resources but hold a traditional copyright. [17] [19]
The difference between these two course types lies in their didactic approach: “Whereas the cMOOCs
facilitate learning through participant interactions with a network of individuals and encourage
participants to create, share, and build upon each other’s artifacts (e.g., videos, blog posts), the
Stanford-style MOOCs are primarily designed to deliver education at scale and involve more
structured and sequenced direct transmission of knowledge.” [17] The “c” in the cMOOCs stands for a
connectivist approach and the “x” in xMOOCs for “extension”, “focusing on the massive enrollments,
or extension, for example, HarvardX being an extension of the Harvard University campus” [17]. An
xMOOC is likely to be seen as the online version of a traditional lecture: “The teaching methods used
by most of x-MOOCs so far are based on behaviorist pedagogy. They rely primarily on information
transmission, computer marked assignments and peer assessment.” [19] These courses are therefore
media- or teacher-centered and focus on instruction. The learners have to go through a certain
syllabus and each unit is recapped in a quiz. Some of these courses have a peer-reviewed and peer-
assessed artifact to be handed in at the end of the course. [19] The interaction between the learners is
often limited within the course (e.g. forum discussions that do not count for gaining a participation
certificate). The students often connect themselves outside the course on social media platforms as
Facebook or Twitter. This lack of interaction is often seen as the reason for the high drop-out rate that
characterizes especially xMOOCs. [20] [21] But: It has to be stated that nowadays the “vast majority of
existing MOOCs are xMOOCs” [17].
cMOOCs are more likely to be seen as student-centered: “c-MOOCs establish a many-to-many
relation to develop massive interconnectedness” [19]. They focus on interaction, construction and
connecting learners: “In c-MOOCs a vital concept relates to what learners do for themselves with tools
from a digital world and networking. They promote a self-regulated, highly motivated and autonomous
learner.” [19] The output or learning outcomes cannot be measured by computer marked assignments
and quizzes as learners go their own ways through the courses: “The role of the facilitator is to govern
knowledge coherence and then the learners form/transform it via exploration and deepening the
exposed ideas” [19].
Stimulated by the current MOOC-hype the University of Graz and the Graz University of Technology
decided to develop an own MOOC-platform. This joint project covers the technical development
(based on an internal development by the Graz University of Technology) as well as the development
and the supply of courses. Moreover the project is accompanied by the development of business
models for MOOCs and by the analysis of how collected data can support learning analytics
processes. As a result the platform was established. At the moment the platform
provides three courses, another four will be announced in autumn 2014. All courses are currently
provided in German.
3.1 General Assumptions
Working as lecturers as well as researchers the authors have multi-year experience in using learning
management systems and multimedia content to enhance their teaching. The concept of MOOCs
therefore did not seem completely new. But after attending several MOOCs provided by platforms like
Coursera, EdX or Iversity it turned out that MOOCs are indeed different to meanwhile established
blended- or even online-learning approaches and methods. It is the innovative combination of already
known components like video lectures, forums or quizzes that make MOOCs special.
Analyzing established MOOC-providers it became very fast clear, that MOOCs (and especially
xMOOCs) do not need many features to be successful. So, by developing the platform it was decided
to reduce its functionality to a minimum. As a result the platform contains the possibility to provide and
to access videos, transcripts and further readings, a forum to communicate with other participants and
a billboard, where news are announced. In general, participants should not be swamped with a lot of
features, which would not be used by them frequently. This decision was appreciated by the
participants (at least as a first analysis of their feedback lets assume).
Since the development of the MOOC-platform and its courses is co-funded by public authority it was
necessary (and desired) to make all courses accessible to as many participants as possible. Starting
the project therefore the slogan “Education for everybody” was created. To achieve this goal the
project team agreed that any content that is provided on the MOOC-platform must be licensed under a
Creative Commons (CC) license. This guarantees that any provided content can be reused by
everybody. This is a big difference and a great improvement compared to conventional MOOCs. For
example the MOOC Practical Experiences of Experimental Physics provides several videos explaining
experiments with candles. These videos can not only be watched but also reused e.g. by school
teachers to explain physical basics to their pupils in a multimedia-based way. Another difference to
conventional MOOCs is the fact that all course materials remain on the platform after the coached
phase of a MOOC has ended. This means that every provided course can be attended at any time
Another (very important) consideration was to provide courses to general public as well as to students
of the University of Graz. This means that participants not only can get a certificate (in case they get a
certain percentage of the quizzes right), but they also (in case they are enrolled on the University of
Graz) may achieve credentials in the form of ECTS (= European Credit Transfer System) points.
Therefore, at least one MOOC was held as a massive open online course and a lecture at the same
3.2 Findings
As a practical example this course, called Learning online and dealing with teaching and learning
environments enhanced by the use of new media, new technologies and the internet, shall be
specified. The course was held as the genuine online-lecture at an Austrian University before it was
shifted to the MOOC-platform. As the instructors of the course the authors decided to make the course
available to their students as well as to the general public. Regarding to the Austrian civil service law
of academic staff this decision needed an exception rule thus teaching by providing a MOOC is (by
now) not a common way of teaching at Austrian universities. Overall more than 800 participants
enrolled for the course, among them 120 students of the University of Graz. These students need to
pass a special exam successfully to obtain their ECTS points.
On the other hand this means that 85 percent of the participants were no regular students. This
correlates with other studies: “The University of Madison Wisconsin and University of Edinburgh both
report that around 70% of MOOC participants are university graduates. A study conducted on 35,000
MOOC participants of Pennsylvania University produced similar results, and also confirmed that
participants from emerging countries usually belong to the educated and wealthy part of society, who
are likely to have access to higher education.” [22] Apart from a few participants who are considered
to be experts in the field of MOOCs and who probably enrolled to trail the performance of the new
platform three quarters of the participants took part because they were interested in the topic without
aiming at a university certificate that gains ECTS points. However, many participants asked for a
confirmation of participation (that can be obtained by answering 75 per cent of all quizzes correctly),
which in no case can be used as an academic certificate.
Concerning the question of xMOOCs vs. cMOOCs the authors decided to use a combination of both.
Generally the course was provided as an xMOOC. E.g. it mainly consisted of video lectures, quizzes,
suggestions for further readings and a forum. The use of the forum turned the course into a cMOOC in
some way. At the beginning of the first week participants were asked to describe who they are and
what their motivation to take part is. Most of the participants followed this invitation and described their
attitude towards the course. Analyzing these statements it turns out that many participants are women
older than thirty years who are employed and have duties of care. This correlates with the intention of
the whole project to provide “Education for everybody”. In general the audience was very
heterogeneous, consisting of students, academics, unemployed and retirees upon others with all of
them having different approaches and expectations.
During the nine weeks lasting MOOC the instructors did not at all participate in the forums
communication activities. The only exceptions were a short introduction to every weeks topic and
answers to concrete questions concerning problems using the platform or understanding assignments.
Already during the first week some participants founded an own Facebook group because they were
not satisfied with the functionalities of the provided forum. Even after the official end of the MOOC this
Facebook group still exists and members continue to exchange their knowledge and experiences
there. This shows on the one hand that participants of MOOCs are longing for practicable tools to
communicate, which in the best case are handled by a moderator. On the other hand it is obvious that
learners are able to organize themselves and they can even establish stable relations without the help
of instructors.
Currently the authors are still evaluating the gained data and experiences of the first Austrian MOOC.
But by considering the so far results it can be stated that although, as mentioned above, only a few
ingredients merged in the right way may generate a new teaching and learning scenario called
MOOC, massive open online courses cannot be designed and lectured simply the same way as a
blended-learning or an online course. Therefore it was an anticipatory decision to develop a
pedagogical guideline right from the beginning of the project that helped subsequent producers of
MOOCs to prepare and conduct their courses in a proper and efficient way.
At a traditional brick and mortar university giving a face-to-face lesson teachers can react
spontaneously and change their program according to the learners’ reaction. In a virtual learning
environment it is more difficult to react spontaneously as the teachers do not see their students’ faces
and behavior. In a MOOC, especially in an xMOOC, there is a massive number of students, so the
teachers can never know all students or learners that come from different countries and social strata.
As the courses are generally open to everybody, the audience is heterogeneous: There are workmen
as well as academics, pupils as well as retirees, women as well as men, people that have time
resources and people who have (almost) no time resources and so on. There are therefore different
types of learners and different levels of knowledge that have to be faced within the planning and
designing phase. The following section will a) present some existing guidelines that show how to
design a MOOC in general and b) will describe the pedagogical guideline developed within the
MOOC-project at the University of Graz. [23]
4.1 Existing Guidelines
Before starting to write a guideline, a research study was carried out, which consisted of two parts: a)
an investigation of several xMOOCs offered by the most important platforms as Udacity, Coursera,
edX and Iversity and b) a literature review. There is a great number of blog posts and written papers
answering the question which elements an xMOOC should consist of and which materials it should
provide. Some of them, as for example the paper of Hollands & Tirthali (2014) just summarize what an
xMOOC normally looks like. [17] The following paragraphs have to be seen as a small selection of the
resources taken into consideration for our own guideline How to MOOC? [23].
Scagnoli (2012) identifies five key elements regarding to the instructional design of MOOCs: 1)
“Novelty and Leverage for Previous Experience”, 2) “Input from diversity of sources”, 3) “Gauge for
understanding and further thinking”, 4) “Motivation for engagement and community learning
opportunities” and 5) “Planning for Legacy”. [2] As the audience cannot be predicted, Scagnoli
underlines the importance of these elements of instructional design as a real guideline for teachers
and instructors: “Audience heterogeneity makes it very hard to create a course that will appeal to all
levels; so the elements proposed will help an instructor plan and be prepared for diversity, creating a
space that will give inspiration and intellectual challenge to any levels of participation.” [2]
In her wiki MOOC Guide [24] I. de Waard foresees ten sections, five of which are important for the
instructional design: “3. What to consider before rolling out a MOOC”, “4. Designing a MOOC using
social media tools”, “5. Self regulated learning and coping with MOOC abundance”, “6. Facilitating a
MOOC” and “7. How to make your MOOC mobile accessible”. As this guide is part or product of the
MobiMOOC (, the author focuses on the mobile aspect of MOOCs
and how to make them mobile accessible.
Jasnani (2013) emphasizes the importance of a special instructional design for MOOCs: “Designing a
MOOC is definitely different from designing an online course that sits on an LMS and is accessed by
not more than 20 students, on an average.” [25] The authors answers eight elementary questions in
order to describe this specific design: 1. “What would be an ideal course structure for a MOOC?”, 2.
“Would a competency-based curriculum work better?”, 3. “Should the instructional flow always be
linear?”, 4. “Is a chaotic learning experience good?”, 5. “Should MOOCs include a pre-assessment?”,
6. “How much didactic instruction should be included?”, 7. “Can a MOOC run without a facilitator? If
not, then should multiple facilitators be assigned to a MOOC?” and 8. “Should a MOOC end with the
course?” [25]. As a result of these questions an “Instructional Design Philosophy for MOOCs” is
developed. Following this philosophy, a MOOC should be: a) ”Integrated and Seamless”, b)
“Individualized and Active”, c) “Immersive and Contextual” [25].
Siemens (2012) recommends nine steps in his “How to plan and run a MOOC in 9 easy steps”. These
nine elements are: 1) “Topic, audience”, 2) “Find someone to teach with”, 3) “Determine content”, 4)
“Plan spaces of interaction”, 5) “Plan interactions (live, asynch)”, 6) “Plan *your* continued presence”,
7) “Learner creation (activities)”, 8) “Promote and share” and 9) “Iterate and improve”. [26] As one can
see, Siemens’ approach is a practical one that focuses on the role of the teacher. Guàrdia et al.
(2013), on the contrary, approach the MOOC design debate from a learner’s perspective and point out
a lack of pedagogy: “At present, most MOOC discourse reflects strategic, institutional, economical,
social and technological concerns. A deep pedagogical debate is still missing.” [27] The authors
emphasize the necessity of “networked learning strategies that foster critical thinking and
collaboration” and ask for a leaner-centered instructional design ”while providing adequate learning
contexts, methods and tools that enable the development of targeted and self-traced competences”
[27]. From their point of view it is important that the teacher is present in the course, “through a
detailed study guide, a set of meaningful learning activities, a collection of interactive resources and
supplementary recommendations on how to organize the social interaction” [27].
4.2 Own Model: How to MOOC? A pedagogical guideline for practitioners
All the listed elements were brought together and were structured. The result is a comprehensive
checklist and framework to help forthcoming MOOC administrators, developers and teachers to find
their way through the “MOOC mess” [25]. This checklist covers the design and development phase of
a MOOC according to the ADDIE approach and consists of seven main categories: core requirements,
structure, participant requirements, assignments, media design, communication and resources.
4.2.1 Core requirements
Before starting the planning and designing phase of a MOOC, teachers should also have some
“student” experiences with MOOCs. It is advisable to attend a MOOC in order to get to know its
instructional design, its resources and its organization. In the planning phase there are two preliminary
recommendations regarding to the course’s framework: a) Keep in mind the audience, i.e. a
heterogeneous target group. b) Be aware of the fact that the course planning can constrain or open
the target group (e.g. by choosing a wider or a more specific topic or a specific course language). A
crucial decision is the platform’s choice. There are two possibilities: a) there is a platform that fits for
the course or b) supplementary tools have to be chosen in order to create all resources and activities
(e.g. social media, web 2.0). All the tools and features have to be tested before they are implemented
into a course. As the audience will consist of beginners as well as professionals, workmen as well as
academics, students as well as retirees, some preliminary, organizational work has to be done in order
to achieve a certain “working level” in the course (e.g. providing tutorials regarding the platform and
the supplementary tools used in the course, how to act in forums and chats and so on). According to
the expected number of course participants it is essential to define the level of interaction regarding
the course activities (e.g. are forum discussion compulsory or by choice? does the teacher participate
actively in discussions?) instead of changing the level of interaction within the course. Finally, the
institutions statutory provisions should be taken into consideration (e.g. regarding a course
participation certificate) and a marketing or promotion concept can be worked out (if not provided by
the institution or platform).
4.2.2 Structure
The course structure can be developed by the course designers, thus, they do not need to follow a
certain curriculum or university time table. It is important to portion the content into eight to ten course
units and fix a recurring structure for these units. The units should consist of the same environments
or parts (e.g. quiz element, a resources element, a communication section and so on). It might, thus,
be necessary to time holidays or some extra time. The first unit should be designed as a welcome and
socializing unit, in order to get to know the audience and the platform. [28]
4.2.3 Participant requirements
The participants should know from the beginning what they have to do to earn a certificate (e.g. are all
course units obligatory or are some compulsory?). To help the audience finding their way through the
course, the average weekly workload and the learning objectives can be announced to foster
orientation. The selection of an assessment method (e.g. a multiple choice quiz per unit, a final
artifact, a peer-review activity with specific “criteria” or “rules”) should also be done in an early phase
of the course design and so a quiz design has to be chosen. The question types’ variation should as
well be taken into account as the fact that at least wrong answers should be followed by a feedback
helping the participants to improve their learning outcome.
4.2.4 Assignments
All the assignments (e.g. for activities, resources) should be formulated in a clear, understandable and
gender-sensitive way respecting the needs of a heterogeneous audience with different learning types
and levels of knowledge (e.g. clarification of a specific terminology in a glossary). The assignments
should provoke communication processes within and outside the course (e.g. in social networks).
Besides a linguistically clear formulation, all assignments should have transparent assessment criteria
outlined in the course.
4.2.5 Media design
Media design seems to be crucial for the course’s success. According to the course content, different
methods as well as media or resources have to be selected. According to the MOOC’s open
characters all resources should be licensed under Creative Commons (CC) licenses. [19] This holds
most of all for newly created resources Most MOOCs are based on video lectures. When creating
these videos, it is advisable to split the content into portions of five to ten minutes and to include
“inline” questions into the videos to assure the participants’ attention (even if “inline” question are no
guarantee for it). All resources and tools should work on different (mobile) operating systems (thus,
independent from a specific operating system or browser), as e.g. Acrobat documents (“pdf”) do.
According to the group’s heterogeneity concerning the levels of knowledge it might be useful to design
and provide resources for beginners, advanced learners as well as experts. All resources should be
barrier-free and include gender-sensitive examples. When designing the resources it seems also
important to keep in mind that reading on the screen is not common to digital immigrants and to
consider this fact in the designing and developing phase.
4.2.6 Communication
Communication is the main key for students’ interaction. It is therefore necessary to open spaces and
channels for communication processes within (e.g. via forums, chats, wikis) and outside the course (e.
g. via a twitter hashtag). To keep communication alive, rules should be set (“netiquette” or
“chatiquette”) [28]. The instructors should even encourage the learners to start discussions and open
their own channels (e.g. groups or circles in social networks). To keep the participants on the track, it
might be useful to create a newsletter (e.g. information about the course schedule, new content etc.).
When planning a synchronous meeting time zones should be considered.
4.2.7 Resources
Some of the elements mentioned so far depend on the last category: available resources. If there are
e-tutors that can support the teacher during the course, the level of interaction can be higher than if
the teacher is alone. The same holds for all people who can help designing and managing the course:
an IT-expert to create the videos, colleagues to work in teams or guest teachers and speakers and so
on. Experience proves that extra time should be planned in order to be able to do research (“openness
of the materials”) and to create resources, to test new materials, to answer to students’ questions and
finally to promote the course. If the course will be done more than once, it might be helpful to ask the
course participants for their feedback and to document all experiences (e.g. in a blog). These pieces
of information could as well serve as the basis of a scientific publication.
Eventually the answer to the initial question is not too surprising: MOOCs indeed need a special
instructional design to become valuable for learners and instructors. This special course design must
be based on well-established scientific findings and theories. But a more practical-oriented approach,
considering everyday teaching experience, is also very important. In the case of the Austrian MOOC-
project this mixture of theory and practice turned out to be very fruitful. The pedagogical guideline was
developed simultaneously with the first MOOC, some parts of the guideline even before designing the
MOOC. Subsequent MOOC suppliers using the Austrian MOOC-platform unquestionably benefit from
the guideline, which is continuously extended by new experiences made during the supply of further
MOOCs. To foster the Austrian MOOC-production it is planned to use the guideline as a basis for a
MOOC about “How to design and run a MOOC” which shall go online in spring 2015.
We like to express our gratitude to the federal state government of Styria for funding the project with
the so called “Zukunftsfonds Steiermark” as well as the two universities located in Graz the
University of Graz as well as Graz University of Technology. We are equally indebted to the whole
iMooX team who is working hard but with full enthusiasm on the idea of bringing education to the
whole society at least in Austria.
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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have gained attention because they offer the prospect of mass-scale, globally accessible, high-quality education. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge of interest in MOOC as learning across the globe had to be moved online. Yet, designing online courses intended for a wide audience is challenging. To facilitate the design of good online courses, it is imperative to have in place a set of principles that is able to guide the creation and presentation of course content. Extant in the literature are design principles for the use of technologies in education. However, these principles have not been extensively applied to actual MOOC development and design. Given the challenges involved in designing MOOCs, establishing a set of design principles is critical for improving learner outcomes. This chapter will examine the rise of MOOCs as well as their importance and benefits. It will describe the different types of MOOCs. Various educational psychology theories and pedagogical principles that can be applied to the development of MOOCs will be discussed. The chapter will illustrate some of these pedagogical principles and technical aspects by means of a case study of a MOOC that was designed for parents and educators.KeywordsMassive Open Online CourseMOOCPedagogical principlesInstructional design
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Social constructivism emphasises the role of meaningful interactions as a vehicle for learning. Meaningful interactions engage learners cognitively and socially with others to construct knowledge. Such interactions, however, require an environment specially designed to facilitate and guide learners’ cognitive and social processes towards the construction of knowledge. Forums in massive open online courses (MOOCs) could potentially provide such an environment. However, research on how MOOC forums are designed to facilitate and guide cognitive and social processes is scarce. This study adopts a qualitative lens to examine the specifications, pedagogical instructions, and guidance provided in the forums of 4 edX MOOCs to help learners engage in meaningful interactions. We sought to uncover how MOOC forums are designed to support the social construction of knowledge. We found that MOOC forums mainly seek to facilitate cognitive processes while giving scant support or guidance to social processes. Such a learning design might favour the individual over the social construction of knowledge. To a certain extent, our findings help explain the questionable effectiveness of MOOC forums as social learning environments.
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Bu çalışmada çevrimiçi ve kitlesel açık çevrimiçi derslerde kültürel unsurlar incelenerek transkültür varlığına ilişkin göstergeler belirlenmeye çalışılmıştır. Çalışma transkültür olgusu çerçevesinde öğretim tasarımı ve ders yapısı, öğrenen özellikleri ve öğrenme deneyimleri ve öğreten özellikleri ve öğretim sürecindeki deneyimleri bağlamlarında ele alınmıştır. Bütüncül çoklu durum çalışması deseninin uygulandığı çalışmanın örneklemini lisansüstü düzeyde örgün bir çevrimiçi ders ile bir xMOOC oluşturmaktadır. Kuramsal ve kavramsal altyapı çerçevesinde araştırma sorularına cevap ararken sistematik alanyazın taramasının yanı sıra yapılandırılmış ve yarı-yapılandırılmış görüşme, gözlem ve doküman incelemesi tekniklerinden yararlanılmıştır. Araştırmanın bunların dışındaki veri kaynaklarını tartışma forumu gönderileri, ÖYS mesajları, e-postalar, sosyal medya gönderileri, geribildirimler, etkileşimlilik raporları ve derse yönelik dış kaynaklardan elde edilen katılımcı görüşleri oluşturmaktadır. Veri analizinin sonucunda her iki duruma ilişkin transkültür oluşumunu destekleyen unsurlar topluluk ve yapı olmak üzere iki ana tema ve bu temaları oluşturan yedi kategori ve yedi alt-kategori etrafında biçimlendirilmiştir. Araştırma sonuçlarına göre, Durum 1’de transkültür oluşumu Durum 2’ye kıyasla daha yoğun hissedilmektedir. Bunun sebepleri arasında kuralların fazla olmasına rağmen açık olması, dersin hayli yapılandırılmış olmasına karşın öğrencilerin diğer öğrenenlerle birlikte öğrenmelerini yapılandırabilecekleri tasarım öğelerinin dahil edilmesi, ve ortak çıkar/amaçlar ile işbirliği ve ortak çalışma gerektiren etkinliklerin fazla olması, bunun sonucunda da topluluk duygusu, ortak çalışma kültürü ve kimliğin oluşabilmesi gösterilebilir. Durum 2’de ise transkültür oluşumunun daha az gözlenmesinin nedenleri etkileşimin az olması, kuralların az olması sebebiyle esnekliğin fazla olması, süreçlerin izlenmemesi, işbirliğinin az olması, öğrenen çeşitliliğinin fazla olmasına bağlı olarak derse katılım amaçlarının da çeşitlilik göstermesi sebebiyle ortak çıkarların/amaçların az olması, ve tüm buna bağlı olarak ortak çalışma kültürünün ve kimliğin oluşamaması şeklinde sıralanabilir.
User Experience (UX) from the simplest perspective is defined in how people feel when using a product or service, which is fundamental to the success or failure of any product in the market. On the other hand, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become one of the most popular trends in the field of education, reaching great popularity among several universities, which offer MOOCs through prestigious platforms, however, most of them do not meet the expectations and satisfaction of users, and mechanisms have not yet been designed to comprehensively measure the UX in these platforms. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to develop a comprehensive framework for the evaluation of UX in MOOC platforms from a technological point of view, after a systematic review of the literature to identify the most frequently applied and/or important evaluation approaches, which are analyzed and organized according to the following components: technological criteria and MOOC indicators, type of users, UX dimensions and UX factors. Through this approach it is possible to evaluate the UX in individual components, compare it between similar products and measure it over time.KeywordsMassive Open Online CoursesUser ExperienceUsability
The quality assurance of E-Learning systems can be guaranteed by a quality instructional design and by the definition of learning objectives associated with modules and programs. Learning objectives are central to teaching and learning in many higher education institutions. However, teachers have limited tools to help them reflect on the learning objectives of the course they create. Bloom's taxonomy's cognitive levels are widely used as a reference standard for classifying E-Learning Contents. However, many action verbs in Bloom's taxonomy overlap at various levels of the hierarchy, leading to confusion about the cognitive level expected. Some research papers have addressed the cognitive classification of E-Learning content such as assessment questions or forum texts, but none has addressed learning objectives. This study proposes a method for classifying learning objectives automatically, by extracting features based on a modified TF-IDF-POS to assign a suitable weight for essential words in the learning objective based on Part-Of-Speech (POS). Then, we use different classifiers combined with those features. To address the problem of the absence of annotated learning objectives dataset, we create a dataset of 2400 items. The classification results achieved the highest accuracies for the models combined with TF-IDF-POS. According to the findings of this study, the proposed method is effective in classifying learning objectives using Bloom's taxonomy. KeywordsPedagogical classificationMachine learningTF-IDFPart-Of-SpeechFeature extractionBloom’s taxonomy
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The last five years have witnessed a hype about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) presaging a revolution in higher education. Although all MOOCs have in common their scale and free access, they have already bifurcated in two very distinct types of courses when compared in terms of their underpinning theory, format and structure, known as c-MOOCs and x-MOOCs. The concept of openness behind each of the formats is also very different. Previous studies have shown that c-and x-MOOCs share some common features but that they clearly differ on the learning theory and pedagogical model on which they stand. In this paper we extend earlier findings and concentrate on the concept of “openness” behind each format showing important differences.
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Over the past few years, observers of higher education have speculated about dramatic changes that must occur to accommodate more learners at lower costs and to facilitate a shift away from the accumulation of knowledge to the acquisition of a variety of cognitive and non-cognitive skills. All scenarios feature a major role for technology and online learning. Massive open online courses(MOOCs) are the most recent candidates being pushed forward to fulfill these ambitious goals. To date, there has been little evidence collected that would allow an assessment of whether MOOCs do indeed provide a cost-effective mechanism for producing desirable educational outcomes at scale. It is not even clear that these are the goals of those institutions offering MOOCs. This report investigates the actual goals of institutions creating MOOCs or integrating them into their programs, and reviews the current evidence regarding whether and how these goals are being achieved, and at what cost.
Conference Paper
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Massive Open Online Courses, shortly MOOCs, are a trending phenomenon in online education. Neither distance education nor online courses are new, but especially in the field of technology enhanced learning, MOOCs have been gathering enormous attention by the public. Thus, following the main idea of bringing education to a broad range of people, two universities in Graz developed an xMOOC platform for the German speaking area, mostly addressing people in Austria. Before the first courses started the authors reflected on how such a MOOC should be carried out and which key factors (didactical, technical and administrative) have to be considered. This research study strongly concentrates on developing a checklist for practitioners who would like to do an xMOOC in the future by examining different xMOOCs and reflecting first experiences gathered through daily work on MOOCs. It can be concluded that doing a Massive Open Online Course is much more challenging as maybe expected at first sight. Nevertheless the proposed checklist will help to overcome first barriers and provide solid steps towards one’s first online course.
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A new understanding of knowledge production and learning challenges the core of learning design, demanding innovative and appropriate approaches to teaching and learning. We present a set of learning design principles drawn from the learner’s perspective. They focus on empowering learners in networked environments for fostering critical thinking and collaboration, developing competence based outcomes, encouraging peer assistance and assessment through social appraisal, providing strategies and tools for self-regulation, and finally using a variety of media and ICTs to create and publish learning resources and outputs.
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Instructional design is that branch of knowledge concerned with theory and practice, related to instructional strategies and systematic procedures for developing and implementing those strategies.
While most teachers are skilled in providing opportunities for the progression of children’s learning, it is sometimes without fully understanding the theory behind it. With greater insight into what is currently known about the processes of learning and about individual learners, teachers are better equipped to provide experiences and situations that are more likely to lead to effective acquisition of knowledge, concepts and skills. Ways of Learning has been widely used and now, fully updated, it seeks to provide further insight into the ways in which learning takes place, which teachers can make use of in their planning and teaching, including: an overview of learning behaviourism and the beginning of theory cognitive and constructivist learning multiple intelligences and learning styles difficulties with learning the influence of neuropsychology other theories, philosophies and names relating theory to practice. The fourth edition of this book includes developments in areas covered in the preceding editions, as well as expanding on certain topics to bring about a wider perspective; most notably, a new consideration of learning styles and a new chapter detailing important thinkers and writers from the history of education and their continuing influence along with other theories, ideas and thoughts not included in the rest of the book. The book also reflects changes in government policy and is closely related to new developments in practice. Written for trainee teachers, serving teachers and others interested in learning for various reasons, Ways of Learning serves as a valuable introduction for students setting out on higher degree work who are in need of an introduction to the topic.
This is the second of a two-part article that discusses the history of the field of instructional design and technology in the United States. The first part, which focused on the history of instructional media, appeared in the previous issue of this journal (volume 49, number 1). This part of the article focuses on the history of instructional design. Starting with a description of the efforts to develop training programs during World War II, and continuing on through the publication of some of the first instructional design models in the 1960s and 1970s, major events in the development of the instructional design process are described. Factors that have affected the field of instructional design over the last two decades, including increasing interest in cognitive psychology, microcomputers, performance technology, and constructivism, are also described.
The 13 essays in this book examine the theory of constructivism in relation to teaching and learning. The first section provides an account of the epistemological, psychological, and sociocultural research that serves as the theoretical basis of constructivism, and includes the following chapters: "Introduction: Aspects of Constructivism" (Ernst von Glasersfeld), "Constructivism: A Psychological Theory of Learning" (Catherine Twomey Fosnot), and "Where Is the Mind? A Coordination of Sociocultural and Cognitive Constructivist Perspectives" (Paul Cobb). The second section features chapters by scholars from various disciplines in five chapters: "A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning Science" (Candace Julyan and Eleanor Duckworth); "A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning Mathematics" (Deborah Schifter); "A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning in the Language Arts" (June S. Gould); "A Constructivist Perspective on the Role of the Sociomoral Atmosphere in Promoting Children's Development" (Rheta DeVries and Betty Zan); and "A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning in the Arts" (Maxine Greene). In the last section, teachers describe how they apply their constructivist perspective to classroom practice in four chapters: "Is the Algorithm All There Is?" (Jill Bodner Lester); "A First-Year Teacher Implements a Literature-Based/Whole Language Program in Fourth-Fifth Grade" (Susan Cowey); "The Project Approach in Reggio Emilia" (George Forman); "Teaching Introductory Physics to College Students" (Dewey I. Dykstra, Jr.); and "Teachers Construct Constructivism: The Center for Constructivist Teaching/Teacher Preparation Project" (Catherine Twomey Fosnot). (Individual chapters contain references.) (PB)
This is the first of a two-part article that will discuss the history of the field of instructional design and technology in the United States. A definition of the field is provided and the major features of the definition are identified. A rational for using instructional design and technology as the label for the field is also presented. Events in the history of instructional media, from the early 1900s to the present day, are described. The birth of school museums, the visual and audiovisual instruction movements, the use of media during World War II, and the interest in instructional television, computers, and the Internet are among the topics discussed. The article concludes with a summarization of the effects media have had on instructional practices, and a prediction regarding the effect computers, the Internet, and other digital media will have on such practices over the next decade.