Part of my ongoing fascination with MOOCs isn’t really about the free learning (although I love the amazing variety of courses I can dive into); instead I approach each MOOC as a chance to explore different approaches to online learning design. I use myself as a guinea pig to see if a particular site layout, organization, content, facilitation approach, use of tools for learning (i.e., wiki, videos, forums) makes a difference to my learner experience and my success.
So far I’ve found both “good” and “bad” course design (my rating is fairly subjective as my personal response as a learner is partly determined by my own learning style, my prior experiences, what I already know about a course subject, etc.) and I’ve encountered a few courses that I found really innovative (based on what I’ve seen in my years as an instructional designer).
I’d say that the Learn Moodle course design was somewhat traditional but the facilitation was very participatory, adult-learner and international learner friendly. I really liked the simple two column with header design and I found the icons enhanced each course page with colour and a visual aid to finding my way to what I wanted to do.
I particularly liked the weekly icon indicating the proportion of the course that had been completed. Two other features of Moodle made navigation very simple; the current week’s block was highlighted with blue and there was a linked prompt at the top right of the page that allowed a user to jump to the current week.
As is common in MOOCs, given the huge number of participants (more than 9,000 by the last week of the course!), much of the learning was self-directed and peer-supported. Experienced Moodlers gave generously as they responded to questions and suggested the best ways they had found to use Moodle to facilitate better learning. The facilitators of this MOOC also worked extremely hard to respond to postings in the forums, to provide constructive feedback on personal course pages that each participant was welcome to build, and to make sure that we all knew what was coming next, helping us stay on task. This is the most support I’ve had in any of the MOOCs I’ve participated in, and it helped me stay focused and really learn some new skills. I also found myself surprisingly motivated to earn the digital badge.
The facilitators began each week with a live GoogleHangout where they reviewed course statistics (demonstrating the use of Moodle data analysis tools), provided a brief explanation of how to do something in terms of course building, and, eventually, as personal courses were developing, shared their feedback about course design. I have to say that I found these overly lengthy and difficult to view when traveling. It might be worthwhile to review the main purpose of the live broadcast and then scale back the time?
A final word about the design of the course: the introduction of basic to moderately complex tools was simple but effective. With such a huge range of learner knowledge, I thought the designers did a great job. The learning activities didn’t always work as planned but the facilitators were quick to adapt. If I look back at what I learned about building Moodle course pages, I recognize that the foundation was laid and then new ideas were introduced that I could explore or not. The flow went something like this:
Overview of the course (prior to starting Week 1 activities):
|page, forum and chat|
|book, Choice poll, survey, quiz, feedback|