John Kerr, Anja Lorenz, Sandra Schön, Martin Ebner, Andreas Wittke: Open Tools and Methods to
support the development of MOOCs: A Collection of How-tos, Monster Assignment and Kits. In:
Proceedings of the EMOOCs Conference 2021, Experience Track.
OPEN TOOLS AND METHODS TO SUPPORT
THE DEVELOPMENT OF MOOCS
A COLLECTION OF HOW-TOS, MONSTER ASSIGNMENT AND KITS
The University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland
Mönkhofer Weg 23, 23562 Lübeck, Germany
Graz University of Technology
Münzgrabenstraße 36, 8010 Graz, Austria
Graz University of Technology
Münzgrabenstraße 36, 8010 Graz, Austria
Mönkhofer Weg 23, 23562 Lübeck, Germany
There are a plethora of ways to guide and support people to learn about MOOC (massive open online course)
development, from their first interest, sourcing supportive resources, methods and tools to better aid their understanding
of the concepts and pedagogical approaches of MOOC design, to becoming a MOOC developer. This contribution
highlights tools and methods that are openly available and re-usable under Creative Commons licenses. Our collection
builds upon the experiences from three MOOC development and hosting teams with joint experiences of several hundred
MOOCs (University of Applied Sciences in Lübeck, Graz University of Technology, University of Glasgow) in three European
countries, which are Germany, Austria and the UK. The contribution recommends and shares experiences with short
articles and poster for first information sharing a Monster MOOC assignment for beginners, a MOOC canvas for first
sketches, the MOOC design kit for details of instructional design and a MOOC for MOOC makers and a MOOC map as
introduction into a certain MOOC platform.
KEYWORDS: MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES, COURSE DESIGN, MOOC DESIGN, INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN
1. INTRODUCTION: MOOCS AND DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS FOR MOOC
Open online courses for “masses”, or “massive open online courses” (McAuley, 2010) have been
exponentially growing since 2012, becoming a strategic ambition for many institutions world-wide (Kerr,
2015). In March 2020, Google search data shows a sharp peak for MOOCs during the first COVID19-pandemic
wave (see Fig. 1) and thus also shows the potential of open learning programmes, especially when access to
traditional formats is or becomes problematic (and this does not only apply during a pandemic).
Figure 1: Worldwide searches for the Topic “Massive Open Online Course” at Google.com. Source: Own visualisation of
data offered by “Google Insights for Search”, https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-
y&q=%2Fm%2F0gyvy46, 27.12.2020, Note: The representation is shown in relation to the highest level (March 2020,
There is now a vast selection of MOOC platforms in existence, with the prominent suppliers being
Coursera, edX, FutureLearn and Udacity. ClassCentral (2020) reports that these platforms now service over
180 million learners, from 950 universities and offer 16,500 courses. In this paper we will describe the
authors’ backgrounds, experiences and developments which are impacting on MOOC growth across several
Since 2014, Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) has been hosting a MOOC platform called iMooX.at.
Since then, more than 100 courses have been held with over 60.000 registered users. A special feature of the
platform is that all course materials must be published under Creative Commons licenses, so that complete
courses and materials can be used and modified by others. iMooX.at is thus a platform for courses with open
educational resources (OER, see Ebner et al., 2016). Another platform enabler is that iMooX can be used for
free for all Austrian universities co-financed by a ministry’s initiative (iMooX.at, 04/2020–03/2024).
The MOOC story of the University of Applied Sciences in Lübeck (Technische Hochschule Lübeck, TH
Lübeck) starts with a first Moodle-based prototype, that was evolved into the MOOC platform “mooin” in
2015 (see Lorenz et al., 2015). Some years later, the relaunch of oncampus.de, a subsidiary of TH Lübeck
responsible for postgraduate study programs, combines both MOOCs and further learning opportunities on
the new platform. Next to MOOCs offered directly by TH Lübeck or the oncampus company, externals can
offer their courses, too. Therefore, there is a great variety of open online courses: from academic subjects to
non-formal education topics like beekeeping, rock’n’roll or youth participation. Many of the open online
courses are published under Creative Commons licenses, i. e. MOOCs produced by TH Lübeck.
The University of Glasgow has been developing MOOCs since 2014. To date, they have launched over 35
courses on FutureLearn and one on Coursera (with many more in development), and are regarded as a leader
in this area. Furthermore, the University of Glasgow has increased its offerings on these platforms by
launching seven micro-credentials and one fully online M. Sc. programme. With over 500,000 enrollments
across the portfolio, Glasgow continues to develop MOOCs in key strategic areas to increase access to
education. Glasgow has a strong connection in partnering with industry and other universities to co-develop
and deliver courses. Examples of this include, working with The Data Lab to produce a course on Data Science
for School Teachers, and collaborating with the University of the West Indies to develop a course on the
History of Slavery in the British Caribbean.
Therefore, we can build upon the experiences of hosting and supporting the design and delivery of several
hundred MOOCs via self-hosted platforms (TH Lübeck, TU Graz) or the University of Glasgow’s approach with
Coursera and FutureLearn, and courses licensed under Creative Commons (TU Graz, partly TH Lübeck) or not
(University of Glasgow).
2. DEVELOPMENT OF MOOCS AND AIM OF THIS CONTRIBUTION
Collectively we offer diverse perspectives on how to develop MOOCs in different contexts. Our
approaches have slightly different purposes, strategies, didactics and a broad variety in disciplines. However,
we are united by the need to support the development of MOOCs – for our teachers, our clients and various
institutions – in the best possible and professional way. Therefore, we often independently develop and
implement resources, methods and tools for developing MOOCs. The challenge is, how can we enable others
for MOOC development, provide targeted guidance and support in planning their MOOC projects? In the
following, we would like to present resources, methods and tools that we have developed and consider to be
fundamental to our approach to MOOC developments.
This paper aims to present a collection of methods to demonstrate the variants of methods and tools that
have been created. We restrict ourselves to those examples that are explicitly available under Creative
Commons licenses and in the best case under open licenses, so that their re-use is possible without the host
institution. This includes translation of the mainly English (and partly German) materials. Since all the creators
who developed the materials agreed to contribute to this paper, we can also highlight experiences with the
tools and backgrounds.
3. SELECTED TOOLS AND METHODS
Figure 2 gives an overview about the resources, methods and tools that we describe within this
contribution. They are ordered in a timeline fashion, from initial discovery to designing and building your first
MOOC. A very prominent and often repeated measure is not described further as a tool, but needs to be
highlighted: Everyone who is interested in developing a MOOC we highly recommend to take part at one.
This serves two important purposes, 1) it allows the designer to become the learner and 2) also to be informed
by best practice and generate new ideas for their own pedagogical approach.
Figure 2: Overview about the potential development from first interest to become a MOOC maker and supportive
resources, methods and tools
3.1 How to MOOC – first insights
We skip introductory texts and information on what MOOCs actually are and directly propose texts and
materials that deal with their development or different implementations. The texts are very practically
As a first, we want to share “Ten simple rules for developing a MOOC” by Manallack & Yuriev (2016) who
shortly emphasize the main steps (similar to our Fig. 2). Concerning diverse didactical design many refer to
the differentiation of cMOOX (c for connectivistic) as well xMOOX (x for extension). Whereas cMOOXs designs
using principles of discussion and even co-design of the course, xMOOXs design are focused on content,
especially videos and quizzes to support self-organised learning. Conole (2014) emphasizes that there are
even more possibilities to classify MOOCs and offers 10 criteria for different MOOC designs. Similarly to
Conole (2014), Drake, O’Hara & Seeman (2015) share five principles of MOOC design and how it influenced
decisions in a case study.
MOOCs are typically, but not always, developed by academics working at universities. Therefore, it might
be of interest to see different possibilities to implement existing MOOCs into teaching or develop it as an
integrative part. Educators use the affordances of MOOCs to provide their students with different insights
into content and as a means to engage with external participants. This is a growing trend with the introduction
of major platforms offering Campus-based used for free, resulting in learners being able to take a variety of
courses for free, with continued access, without payment. In so-called “pre-MOOCs”, for example, the MOOC
becomes a prerequisite for participation in a laboratory exercise (Braun et al., 2021). In the case of the
“Inverse Blended” MOOC, specific measures are taken to ensure that the MOOC is also “in attendance”, for
example by printing workbooks or organizing meetings of learners (Ebner & Schön, 2019). We have identified
seven such scenarios that are implemented more frequently (Ebner et al., 2020).
3.2 Own Trial – you have to MOOC
All agree that colleagues who wish to develop a MOOC should take full part in at least one especially on
the platform they will be offering theirs in. There are several overviews and collections of MOOC providers
● OERu.org is an offer of the OER foundation and presents online courses on the base of open licensed
materials from partner universities (mostly outside of Europe).
● MOOChub.org is an aggregation service and common project of several MOOC providers from the
German speaking landscape, who provides a well open licensed courses (amongst others: iMooX.at,
● Then there are other lists, which offer overviews and collections of online courses, e. g.
Edukatico.org and Classcentral.com, which includes different providers, but as well fee-based
3.3 The Monster MOOC: A workshop design and assignment for beginners
Title: Monster MOOC Assignment in a Workshop
Short Description: A workshop design including an assignment which is engaging and very helpful to support a first
MOOC design in a fun and creative way
Reference (URL): Schön, S. & Ebner, M. (2020). The Monster MOOC (Template for Group Work). Version 1.0, Zenodo,
27.12.2020, URL https://zenodo.org/record/4395154
License: CC BY 4.0
Encouraging MOOC design teams to engage in a course and document areas they felt worked and areas
they felt didn’t work well can be a good way to share a common experience and engage in pedagogical
discussion. In this way, at least the multitude of implementation variants with regard to communication,
collaboration, action orientation or humor components becomes apparent. In addition to a few theoretical
classifications and explanations, we then had the best experience with a very special work assignment: the
development of a MOOC for monsters. Here we would like to emphasize: The monsters are very important:
Nobody here is really an expert, even if she is a big fan of the Monster Family or has just seen Monster, Inc.:
What monsters are exactly and how they could at best give you a fright is mainly up to our imagination.
The assignment for a group task in the MOOC further education is therefore (see Schön & Ebner, 2020a):
“The Monster Academy would like to offer a MOOC for the first time where monsters can be trained. The
course title is ‘Theory and Practice of Frightening’ Please develop learning goals, structure etc. concerning
your imagination!” With the help of pre-structured posters, MOOCs are now sketched, accompanied by
giggles and loud laughter, it’s just too weird what’s happening. And yet: Especially the free thinking and the
exchange of ideas in a good atmosphere provides good first sketches and plans, which in turn show in the
mutual presentation how different one can design a MOOC. Does the MOOC follow an approach that
gradually releases testing into application? Does it concentrate only on theoretical aspects of the topic?
Which form of assessment is planned?
Antidotally, positive experiences of staff using Monster assignment have been captured (see Schön &
3.4 Sketching a MOOC project with the MOOC canvas (TU Graz)
Title: MOOC Canvas
Short Description: A big print (DIN A3), the canvas can be folded as a booklet and used to sketch a first draft of a
Reference (URL): http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.28577.22887
How-to fold the canvas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIQO5uurSLc
License: CC BY 4.0
Originally, the term “canvas” was used for completely empty canvases, but especially the openly licensed
and widely used business model canvas by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) has changed this term. Thus, a
canvas is often understood to be a template that can be printed and helps to structure developments or
The MOOC Canvas, which the Educational Technology team at TU Graz uses for consultations on MOOC
project conception, was first used in 2017 (see Schön, 2017). The MOOC Canvas is intended for the early
phase of the MOOC project development and is oriented towards important planning activities around the
overall MOOC project by considering production up to marketing, cooperation and topics (see Schön & Ebner,
2018). The MOOC Canvas, printed on DIN A3, is first folded to a small booklet, page by page, which gives a
big “picture” around the MOOC project. Folding instructions can be found online
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIQO5uurSLc). It starts with a working title and the MOOC organizers’
objectives: Why a MOOC? Then target groups and learning goals, a sketch of the units and video, tasks and
test design are discussed. A MOOC project, which is strategically implemented, must include good
cooperation and partner selection as well as marketing ideas, embedding in other concepts and cooperation
partners is also discussed. In the best case the first thoughts for the potential MOOC project are sorted after
working through and unfolding the MOOC canvas and further connections visualized by arrows can be
discovered. Thus, MOOC’s target group is closely connected to possible cooperation partners; existing
material could be used etc. Whoever wants to use the canvas is invited to do so – the open license also allows
own modifications (TU Graz 2020a, 2020b).
3.5 MOOC Design Mapping Framework - The University of Glasgow
Title: A collaborative approach to MOOC design mapping
Short Description: Utilising an online tool (Miro) to create a framework which allows MOOC stakeholder to
collaboratively build and map out, step by step, MOOC curricula.
Reference (URL): https://www.gla.ac.uk/colleges/socialsciences/staff/learningandteaching/moocdesign/
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Due to the scale of courses Glasgow was producing, across a range of subject disciplines, there was a
requirement to provide more focused support for academic staff and streamline learning design support with
a framework that allows MOOC design to be a creative and collaborative process. Equally, in doing so allowed
the central team to collate and share examples of previous course design best practices with colleagues. Thus,
we now have a bank of exemplars to share with colleagues new to the process. What this achieves is a much
stronger understanding of how MOOCs are designed and the importance of mapping the learner journey to
learning types, ensuring Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are being delivered on.
The MOOC Design Mapping Framework (MDMF) is centered on Laurillard’s (2002) conversational
framework which has been further adapted by the ABC learning design approach by Young and Perović
(2016). Glasgow’s framework builds upon and expands this approach by using an online collaborative tool,
Miro, that allows multiple contributors to design and map MOOC curriculum (central section). Post-it style
notes are dragged into the desired activity type with enough information captured to explain the step. The
activity types have been strongly aligned to the FutureLearn platform pedagogies and tools available to
deploy. The completed curriculum map then allows content to be developed with the learner journey fully
mapped and aligned to learning types (right hand column) and time to complete each step (left hand column).
The framework has been granted a reusable license (CC-BY-NA-SA) allowing other institutions free use to
adapt and remix the approach to suit local needs. Empirical research has been conducted into the evaluation
of this tool, which explored academic experiences and also those of the learning technologists who supported
the design and development of these MOOCs using the framework (Kerr, Dale & Gyurko, 2019).
3.6 A MOOC for MOOC Makers
Title: MOOC Maker
Short Description: A MOOC on how to technically set up an open online course on the oncampus.de platform
Reference (URL): https://www.oncampus.de/mooinmaker
License: CC BY 4.0
Since 2016, it has been possible for external participants to host their MOOCs on oncampus.de. The
platform is based on Moodle, but there are some specifics that MOOC makers need to be familiar with in
order to set up a MOOC and implement content and activities. Providing (free) regular training or some other
supervised format to empower external MOOC makers was not considered as an efficient practice: If people
want to create their own MOOC, it would be rather unpleasant to wait until the next start of a guided tutorial.
In addition, the demand for these courses would vary quite a dramatically: In one term there would be hardly
any people interested in an introduction to MOOC making, in another there might be a very high number of
interested participants. MOOCs on the other hand are scalable and, if planned accordingly, can be launched
at any time. Other platforms like Coursera likewise ended up with this approach (cf. Coursera 2020). Another
benefit is that participants directly experience for themselves a possible implementation of an online course.
In addition, there is of course the opportunity to ask for individual supervised training services.
The MOOC maker MOOC takes approximately 3 hours to complete, whereas it depends very much on
whether participants want to create their own course in the meantime and need more time to experiment
on their own. The course
• gives an overview of the MOOC platform oncampus.de,
• demonstrates the potential features for MOOCs provided by oncampus.de,
• includes some proposals on how to use oncampus.de for a course,
• provides the practical opportunity to create a first mini-course, and
• shares some basic design instructions that have proven quite useful.
It starts with a brief introduction to the platform, demonstrates possible forms of content and activities,
and then provides step-by-step instructions on how to set up and fill a blank course. Participants can ask
questions and discuss ideas on implementation options with other MOOC makers in a forum. The MOOC
maker MOOC is licensed under CC BY 4.0, so copying is allowed, so is adapting – and in this case it is even
To date (January 19th, 2021), 859 participants are enrolled in the course. However, not all of them actually
produced a MOOC of their own. 105 externals have requested empty courses so far. Of these, some only did
some experimenting, others actually launched multiple courses on the platform (i. e. there are four MOOCs
on volleyball training launched by an external MOOC maker).
The tools and methods described in previous sections can be used regardless of which MOOC platform
will be used. They are in fact not covered in the MOOC maker course and are therefore needed for the didactic
and organisational planning of the course. However, this is no longer the case when it comes to the practical
implementation of the MOOC. The functionalities, interfaces and configurations that will be used in the
MOOC will need to follow those of the MOOC platform. Although oncampus.de is based on Moodle, it has
been heavily customised, so that the MOOC maker MOOC cannot easily be used to explain the
implementation of MOOCs on other Moodle-based platforms. Therefore, the MOOC should also be designed
in order to enable easy integration or adjustment of new features and updates. Apparently, this is not always
feasible in a MOOC that has to include a lot of screenshots and screencasts. Participants therefore also need
some acceptance that the current state of the platform may differ slightly from what is shown in the images
3.7 A MOOC Map as Checklist
Title: MOOC Map (for iMooX platform)
Short Description: A MOOC map with a to-to list to tick off on the main steps of set-up a MOOC at iMooX platform.
Reference (URL): https://imoox.at/page/creator
License: CC BY 4.0 International
At TU Graz, an own MOOC for MOOC makers is under development modelled on the MOOC maker course
at the TH Lübeck. At this point, we would like to point out another tool, the MOOC map: MOOC creators
receive this map during their individual training and can tick off the central steps of MOOC implementation
with a focus on the technical and practical needs. The current version is the third, as we do update the MOOC
map according to the feedback of all involved people, so the iMooX support team as well the MOOC makers.
The authors of this paper contacted one another and collaboratively wrote this contribution. They are
aware that other open-source developments do exist but where not located in our searches. In this joint
overview, we have tried to collect and present openly accessible and, if possible, openly licensed resources
and materials for the development of MOOCs. Practically, we concluded our efforts on the design and
development of MOOCs knowing that there are open issues such as marketing, implementation and
evaluation that require exploration and consideration when undertaking a MOOC build and launch.
Contributions and development by authors of TU Graz was partly delivered within the Austrian project
“iMooX” (2021–2024), co-financed by the Austrian Ministry (the Educational Technology team of Graz
University of Technology develops MOOCs and related know-how) and within “Open Education Austria
Advanced” (2021-2024), co-financed by the Austrian Ministry (the Educational Technology team of Graz
University of Technology supports the development of OER and related knowledge).
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