Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A successful MOOC may require a great development team

I believe the above is true. I have had the experience of being close to where MOOCs are being developed for Coursera. It requires a team to complete such a course, it requires a team to run the course, and it requires a good team to begin with. This team is interdisciplinary, and its members do not usually have the same background. It is usual that the instructor is a faculty member to the university, and there is a group of instructional designers, graphic designers, video producers, computer programmers, and many others (including teaching assistants that help the instructor) that help him during the course design and production, and afterwards, when the course opens. It would be burdensome if one person is in charge of running the MOOC course (unless that is his/her only job), that person needs the help and the support to deal with the multiple challenges that come up during the duration of the course. If the instructor has experience in the online environment, then the rest of the team will have no problem designing the course since the instructor understands what is needed in order to accommodate the content into the MOOC platform. But in some cases, the instructor has not had the experience of teaching an online course. This can be a difficult and tricky situation. The instructional designers know what works in the online environment and what doesn’t. Instructors could feel that their experience and long-held views on teaching are not being considered during the design process, and egos can be hurt during those planning and follow-up sessions, which won’t help the course design process at all. The instructor has a vision on how the course should look like, and the instructional designers need to accommodate this vision in the process. Instructional designers and instructors need to understand each other situations and give respect to each other experiences and accomplishments. Each side complements the other when designing the course, and if the team learns how to work effectively together the process will be a smooth one. One important attribute of the team is the ability to communicate ideas. It is important that each member speaks the same language during the process, this is especially so when the course is reviewed for the last time before the release date. If there is a disconnect in communication between the instructor (or instructors) and the instructional design team, then the course will not fulfill the instructor’s vision, or worse, the final product will not work at all when released. It is very important that every team member is updated on any changes to the course (even last minute changes). This is especially true for the instructor, who has to approve the final design. I believe that the source of trouble, in most of the MOOC courses that have experienced major setbacks (which have been widely discussed on the Internet), can be traced to problems within a dysfunctional team that failed to communicate to each other, or which had members that did not acclimate to the work dynamic of the team (either intentionally or due to a clash of characters), and as we know, those courses suffered the consequences (along with the corresponding MOOC entity) of having a design team whose member could not work together for the common cause.

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