DO MOOCS NEED A SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN?
MOOCs have been a trending topic since Laura Pappano declared in The New York Times that 2012 was the year of the MOOC. What Pappano is talking about is a phenomenon with its origins in the Anglo-American area that hesitantly arrives in Europe. The Horizon Report for Higher Education 2013placed MOOCs into the time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less (which means 2014).
The acronym MOOC stand for Massive Open Online Course that is to say online courses for hundreds or thousands of learners as these courses are open for everybody. Taking into consideration that the audience cannot be predicted in advance, such a course needs to be well-planned in an organizational, technical, infrastructural and didactic way. When planning a MOOC there are quite many questions to be answered before starting to set up the course itself. Our talk will focus on the didactic aspects answering the question “Do MOOCs need a special instructional design?”. It seems to be obvious that every course needs to be instructionally designed respecting different design principles and elements, as for example Scagnoli (2014) or Richter (2014) 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 know from the context of traditional eLearning.
For an Austrian MOOC project we have scrutinized different MOOC platforms, such as Coursera, FutureLearn and iversity as well as their courses, in order to examine different approaches concerning the instructional design. Furthermore a literature research has been done, to find already existing guidelines that should be considered, as e.g. written by Siemens (2014) and the above mentioned ideas of Scagnoli and Richter. Combining the findings of this research with our own experiences we composed a pedagogical guideline and a checklist with six main categories: core requirements, structure, participant requirements, assignments, media design, communication and resources. Within the presentation of this guideline, the question as posed above will be answered.
As the first Austrian MOOC “Learning in the Net: From Possible and Feasible Things” offered (in German language) at the first Austrian MOOC platform iMooX (www.imoox.st) clearly showed the audience is very heterogeneous, not only concerning age and social background but also concerning expectations, learning habits and motivations to pass the course. The reactions of the participants coming from different countries, different professions and social classes underline that most principles described in the guidelines must absolutely be respected and that it is important to clarify the setting i.e. the rules of the MOOC. The outcomes of the first Austrian MOOC will be presented and, furthermore, the most important lessons learned will be presented to a larger audience of prospective MOOC producers and attendees.