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iMooX - a MOOC platform for all (universities)

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Abstract

iMooX.at is the Austrian MOOC platform founded in 2014. This platform offers free, openly licensed online courses for all, so called Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs). It aims to offer university education in an innovative and digital way.In this article, we will briefly look at the history of the platform and its main milestones till now. Finally, a few possible development steps will be pointed out and discussed.
Draft finally published in: M. Ebner, "iMooX - a MOOC platform for all (universities)," 2021 7th International Conference on Electrical, Electronics and
Information Engineering (ICEEIE), 2021, pp. 1-5, doi: 10.1109/ICEEIE52663.2021.9616685.
iMooX - a MOOC platform for all (universities)
Martin Ebner
Education Technology
Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria
martin.ebner@tugraz.at
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5789-5296
Abstract iMooX.at is the Austrian MOOC platform
founded in 2014. This platform offers free, openly licensed
online courses for all, so called Massive Open Online Course
(MOOCs). It aims to offer university education in an innovative
and digital way.
In this article, we will briefly look at the history of the
platform and its main milestones till now. Finally, a few possible
development steps will be pointed out and discussed.
KeywordsMOOC, platform, Open Educational Resources,
Open Education (key words)
I. INTRODUCTION
At the latest since the beginning of the CoVid19 pandemic,
the digitalization of (higher education) teaching, formerly e-
learning, has received a boost [1]. Even if this step was more
or less forced, higher education institutions are converting
their teaching to digital formats within a few days and weeks
by increasingly either creating digital teaching and learning
content themselves or making greater use of existing content.
In particular, freely accessible online courses, often referred
to as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), play a
significant role here. The term itself was first used in 2010 for
a common online course that appealed to a particularly large
number of people [2] and was immediately taken up by large
American universities that developed special platforms, today
well-known as Coursera, Udacity etc. The goal of those
platforms was always the same: To make online courses
available free of charge.
In 2012, the University of Graz and the University of
Technology of Graz (TU Graz) also took up this idea by
submitting a project proposal for a MOOC platform including
first MOOCs with a special focus to the province of Styria and
therefore Austria, as well as German language speaking
countries.
This article briefly describes the genesis of iMooX.at and
highlights a few special features and research outcomes.
II. IMOOX.AT A MOOC PLATFORM
iMooX.at was founded in 2013 by the University of Graz
and the University of Technology of Graz with the declared
aim of providing "education for all". "Everyone" was not only
directed at students, but also at the whole society in order to
fulfil the public educational mandate of universities and their
role in education. Often referred to as the third mission, it is
therefore important for universities to address other
educational markets to promote the raising of educational
standards on the one hand and to ensure a rapid transfer of
know-how on current research results on the other.
To make this possible, it was already defined at the
beginning of the platform that all teaching and learning
content should be provided with a Creative Commons license
that is as open as possible. In the spirit of Open Education, free
educational resources (OER) should be used as widely as
possible, flexibly in a wide variety of contexts and act as a
driver of free accessible education. Because of a very strict
copyright law in middle Europe, OER seems to be the onliest
possibility to ensure sustainable online education [3].
III. ESSENTIAL DEVELOPMENT STEPS - FROM THE IDEA TO THE
LX PLATFORM
In 2013, after an initial analysis of existing platforms such
as Udacity, edX, etc., it was decided to modify the local
learning management system to meet the requirements of a
MOOC platform. At that time, the user experience was
already very important, because even less experienced users
should be able to work or learn with the platform. The first
mock-ups were created and provided the basis for the first
version, which was launched in 2013. In order to further
consolidate the technology stack in the background and, above
all, to guarantee sustainable development, a switch was made
to the open source system Moodle in August 2017. With
iMooX 2.0, the user interface was also graphically modified
on the basis of usability studies and new user stories. This was
intended to further increase learner satisfaction, which was
generally very high at over 80% [4].
Building on the previous experience, in 2020 the Federal
Ministry of Education, Science and Research approved the
further development of iMooX.at into a national platform in
cooperation with the University of Vienna as part of a national
tender. The focus now is that all Austrian universities can offer
their online courses here. This means that the existing
structures must be expanded from a technical, organizational
and media-didactic point of view in such a way that scaling to
a national platform is possible. In order to meet the demands,
the bundled experiences must be harmonized with the
demands of the partners. The focus is on an optimal learning
experience, a user-friendly interface with easy-to-use
elements. The design implementation and support of learning
environments requires an optimal interaction between design,
pedagogical know-how and technology, i.e. an optimal
Learning Experience Design (LXD). In January 2021,
iMooX.at was finally relaunched in version 3.0 with an
innovative, responsive design (Fig. 1) based on a solid LXD-
work [5].
[Add Fig. 1 here]
Fig. 1. Startscreen iMooX.at
IV. MAIN INTERFACE OF IMOOX.AT
The main interface and the core features of iMooX.at were
developed very carefully. Under the guidance of usability tests
and users’ feedback and with help of LXD-designers we
carried out how an interface for “all” should be look like.
[Add Fig. 2 here]
Fig. 2. Main interface of a MOOC at iMooX.at (example of the MOOC
Bayesian probability theory: https://imoox.at/mooc/course/view.php?id=136
)
Fig. 2 points out a typical main interface of a MOOC at
iMooX.at. The core elements of each MOOCs are:
Each MOOC consist of modules (typically 4-8)
displayed on the left side called “unit”. Each unit
holds several different learning objects and will
be accessible week by week.
The main learning objects of MOOCs are
typically learning videos at least one,
sometimes also two or three, for each module. All
learning videos are hosted on YouTube, to get a
broad audience and are embedded on the
platform. Below each video a transcript is
available for download.
Additionally, each week offers additional
learning content as text, files or simply
hyperlinks.
Finally, each module also offers a self-
assessment to allow learners to control their
learnings.
On the left bar several features can be seen. A bar
points out how much of the presented content has
already been completed. Furthermore, the course
playlist offers all course videos at once as well as
the description points out the learning goals, the
learning outcomes, and the general hints for this
particular course.
To enhance the communication between teachers
and students or students with students a
discussion forum is offered [6]. With the help of
an announcement board lecturers can announce
important course news.
Digital certificates, so called badges, are offered
for each finished module as well as for the whole
course [7].
If the course is finished by a learner, normally
done after completing all self-assessment with a
success rate of at least 75%, a course-certificate
can be downloaded (left bar).
Finally, a learner can also rate a course to suggest
it probably to further interested learners.
V. MILESTONES OF THE PLATFORM
Apart from the technical and graphical development of
iMooX.at, there were also many interesting experiences
around the online courses. A few important milestones are
mentioned here:
In October 2014, UNESCO took over the patronage of
the platform because on the one hand iMooX.at goes
hand in hand with its educational goals through free
access to knowledge and on the other hand each
MOOC holds only Open Educational Resources.
In 2015, a MOOC was used for the first time as part of
a normal course at Graz University of Technology. A
scenario that is almost normal today was tested for the
first time then. Today, 7 different use scenarios can be
crystallized [8] on the platform using different kind of
didactical scenarios in combination with university
lectures.
In 2015, a MOOC on iMooX.at was awarded with the
Austrian State Prize in Adult Education because it
represented the most far-reaching continuing
education measure until then in Austria. In addition, a
new didactic concept, Inverse Blended Learning, was
developed by trying to combine a pure online course
with local learning groups [9].
Building on these experiences, the concept is further
refined and culminates in the EBmooc, which has
reached around 10,000 participants after 3 different
runs. The online course on the General Data
Protection Regulation has achieved something
similar. These are unique examples of online teaching
in the German-speaking world [10].
In 2020, the moochub.org portal go finally online. An
association of all German-language speaking MOOC
platforms provides a website with the aim of jointly
making their developed courses available at once.
Fig. 3. Implementation of learning analytics into the Processes at a MOOC
platform, exemplarily shown for the iMooX.at platform. Source: [11]
VI. SPECIAL FEATURES AND RESEARCH OF IMOOX.AT
A. Learning Analytics
Learning Analytics uses data of leaners to improve their
learning behavior and MOOCs have a typically a lot of them.
Therefore, it is simply consequent if iMooX.at has been used
for some research purposes on this topic. Fig. 3 points out the
whole process how Learning Analytics measurements were
and are implemented at iMooX.at [11].
Following key research has been carried out and already
published [12]:
High dropout-rate on MOOCs is a legend: After
first research results complaining about a low
success-rate on MOOCs [13], we found out that
the dropout-rate strongly relates to the didactical
design and how the MOOCs are used within an
educational setting [14].
Learning Analytics in MOOCs tells us more
about learning in general: After carrying out
some analytics where we strongly concentrate on
how learners learn with MOOCs it was found out
that MOOCs help us to understand how learning
might happen even in large classrooms. Learners
can be divided into different groups, how they
use the MOOCs, how they use the learning
materials and how they finally do the self-
assessments [15].
Learning Analytics in MOOCs supports learners
and teachers: With the help of MOOCs a lot of
data can be collected. Especially, how learners
access material, how often or how long.
Therefore, we tried out different possibilities to
analyze and visualize some results using widgets
and a dashboard. Teachers as well as learners can
take those visualizations to optimize their
MOOCs or their learning behavior [16].
Fig. 4. Example of Learning Analytics dashboard used in iMooX.at
Fig. 4 shows an example of a Learning Analytics
dashboard. In detail the course completion data is pointed out
for teachers and how many certificates and feedback forms
were downloaded. Furthermore, it can be seen how many
learners graduated in relation to those who registered for the
course. Finally, it can be seen that students spent about 50%
of their platform time just for watching the videos within the
modules.
B. Open Educational Resources (OER)
First of all, we must point out that the definitions and
understandings of OER and MOOCs are not always as clear-
cut as shown: MOOCs and OER are considered to be part of
the movement for “Open Education” or better “Opening-Up
Education”. There are many contributions that refer to
MOOCs as OER, even if they are not OER in the sense of
openly licensed materials. MOOCs that are openly licensed is
very rarely the case [17]. In our case, the platform iMooX.at
is a MOOC platform only providing OER in the sense of
definition as licensed with open licenses that allows re-use,
modification, re-publication etc. This leads to several positive
effects [12]:
OER in MOOCs innovates MOOC designs and
learning innovations: Due to the fact that all
MOOCs are completely open the learning
content itself becomes flexible. Flexible means
that any didactical (online) scenario is possible
and anyone who would like to us the resource is
able to do so. So, we found out seven different
scenarios that we have implemented and
supported within the last years as MOOC-
provider [14].
OER in MOOCs allows new co-operations: The
nature of MOOCs are their broad audience and
their reach. Only the language of the learning
content is a natural limit of those courses. In
many different projects we learned that MOOCs
are attractive to another educational institutions
and we gathered a number of new partners with
them [18].
C. Online quality learning
Fig. 5. MOOC-canvas for teachers
According to the Horizon report 2021 online quality
learning describes activities, tutorials or instructionals to
support online teaching in high quality [19]. iMooX.at
provides a number of different kind of hand-outs and canvases
especially for MOOC-developers and MOOC-teachers.
MOOC-map: Due to the fact that a MOOC -
implementation on the platform needs a number
of steps and one can simply be overseen a
MOOC-map has been developed. This map holds
all necessary steps to finally get a complete
MOOC at iMooX.at. The feedback of the
MOOC-developers helped to improve this
document which is nowadays standard for all
certified MOOC-developers of the platform.
MOOC-canvas (Fig. 5): One of the most
important steps doing a MOOC as a teacher are
the very first beginning one. In a first glance, a
MOOC might be a huge, confusing, and chaotic
project. What should I do as teacher? Which
information is necessary? Which license should I
choose? When do I need help from whom? The
canvas should help to address all these questions
and some more.
VII. SUMMARY
In the future, iMooX.at will be available as a service to all
Austrian universities so that they can offer their own teaching
content free of charge and openly licensed. This should
provide the basis for cooperation and the exchange of high-
quality teaching content. Apart from the development and
production of such courses, there are of course other
milestones concerning the platform that are to be implemented
in the medium term:
Landing pages: Each university offering a course will
have its own landing page. On the one hand, this
should facilitate access for their own students and on
the other hand, they should be able to present their own
offers even better.
Learning analytics applications will help to further
optimize the online courses in the future by showing
key figures on how the respective courses are used. In
the medium term, direct feedback to learners is also
planned, including gamification elements.
A mobile application is planned to extend the
functionality of iMooX by enabling learners to keep a
learning diary and to structure their learning behavior
better.
Possible expansions using other platforms (third-party
providers) should help to make further functionalities
available. In parallel, such systems are being
developed in other projects that can be connected with
iMooX.at via API and REST interfaces.
Last but not least, the expansion of the target group in
the European area should not be overlooked. Further
European cooperations should help to consolidate and
steadily increase the use of the platform.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The development work presented here was co-funded by
the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research,
Austria, as part of the 2019 call for proposals for digital and
social transformation in higher education for the project
iMooX.at” (20212023; partner organization: University of
Vienna)
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EDUCAUSE Horizon Report, Teaching and Learning Edition
(Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, 2021)
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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been a hype in technology enhanced learning systems the last couple of years. The promises behind MOOCs stand on delivering free and open education to the public, as well as training a large criterion of students. However, MOOCs clashes severely with students dropout which by then forced educationalists to deeply think of MOOCs effectivity from all angles. As a result, the authors of this paper propose a pedagogical idea that strongly depends on injecting the online learning (MOOC) with face-to-face sessions to refresh the students minds as well as integrating them in the real learning process. The authors after that analyze the results of their experiment using Learning Analytics. The outcomes have shown a new record of certification ratio (35.4%), an improvement of student interaction in the MOOC platform, and a manifest in social interaction in the MOOC discussion forum.
Article
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Many MOOCs initiatives continue to report high attrition rates among distance education students. This study investigates why students dropped out or failed their MOOCs. It also provides strategies that can be implemented to increase the retention rate as well as increasing overall student satisfaction. Through studying literature, accurate data analysis and personal observations, the most significant factors that cause high attrition rate of MOOCs are identified. The reasons found are lack of time, lack of learners’ motivation, feelings of isolation and the lack of interactivity in MOOCs, insufficient background and skills, and finally hidden costs. As a result, some strategies are identified to increase the online retention rate, and will allow more online students to graduate.
Chapter
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Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are the road that led to a revolution and a new era of learning environments. Educational institutions have come under pressure to adopt new models that assure openness in their education distribution. Nonetheless, there is still altercation about the pedagogical approach and the absolute information delivery to the students. On the other side with the use of Learning Analytics, powerful tools become available which mainly aim to enhance learning and improve learners’ performance. In this chapter, the development phases of a Learning Analytics prototype and the experiment of integrating it into a MOOC platform, called iMooX will be presented. This chapter explores how MOOC stakeholders may benefit from Learning Analytics as well as it reports an exploratory analysis of some of the offered courses and demonstrates use cases as a typical evaluation of this prototype in order to discover hidden patterns, overture future proper decisions, and to optimize learning with applicable and convenient interventions.
Article
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This research work investigates the importance and satisfaction on the level of interaction in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as perceived by learners and instructors. The study is based on data from online students and instructors of MOOCs. Two web-based surveys were used to collect data. The theoretical bases of the two surveys is the five-step model for interactivity developed by Salmon (2001). Salmon’s model proposed effective e-moderating in five discrete steps (Access and Motivation, Online Socialization, Information Exchange, Knowledge Construction and Development). Findings of the survey revealed that students rated the importance of interactions in MOOCs as highly important. However, they reported negatively the availability of many criteria suggested by Salmon. On the other hand, Instructors rated nearly half of Salmon criteria as less important, and consequently did not offer them in their MOOCs. In addition, the study revealed that students and instructors rated a high level of satisfaction in MOOCs. In contrast, some students expressed their less satisfaction of interaction in MOOCs. They revealed their dissatisfaction to that lack of instructor interaction. Instructors suggested that it is impossible for instructor to interact with this huge number of students in MOOCs. As a result, some strategies were suggested to enhance instructor interaction with students of MOOCs
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Many MOOCs initiatives continue to report high attrition rates among distance education students. This study investigates why students dropped out or failed their MOOCs. It also provides strategies that can be implemented to increase the retention rate as well as increasing overall student satisfaction. Through studying literature, accurate data analysis and personal observations, the most significant factors that cause high attrition rate of MOOCs are identified. The reasons found are lack of time, lack of learners’ motivation, feelings of isolation and the lack of interactivity in MOOCs, insufficient background and skills, and finally hidden costs. As a result, some strategies are identified to increase the online retention rate, and will allow more online students to graduate.