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xMOOC Enhancement Strategies?

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    Hi All

    When assessing xMOOC I have identified the following elements that relate to my context:

    Flexibility – the model is very flexible and may attract more students because of this
    Students can work at their own pace and this may fit with the context I work within
    Students are given problems to solve then the materials to support them if they get stuck

    Problems I’ve identified are:

    Making sure all materials presented work with multiple user systems.
    Cost of setup re income generation. The student model used relies upon students giving some payment though it isn’t exactly clear from the video.
    Accreditation. Is this course accredited and how does it relate to face to face classes. The tutor discusses the idea that the pass marks are similar or better but as the cohort is larger is that really the case or are the students signing up for this course already interested in this subject and have prior knowledge. Are weaker students achieving better results?

    Interesting. Made me think more strategically about the efficiencies and issues surrounding this type of course.

    Fiery Red1



    Your point about the levels of the students who sign up is interesting. I often wonder what happens to the less able or motivated students and I do have concerns about cherry picking and coming away with a “full” understanding of a topic of just coming away with a patchwork of (ineffective) knowledge. What is the consequence of this, for example when you try to get employment? There is a huge drop off rate from MOOCs which wouldn’t be acceptable in an f2f institution – not just financially but I guess morally. No-one seems to care if free learners drop off. I was on a cMOOC that I had to give up as I was ill – it seemed really strange and indeed harsh that no-one noticed or followed it up. I wonder how much research goes on at the bottom end of MOOC s.



    Sandra and Sancha,

    I too have concerns about the students who are less motivated or self-directed in their learning to continue and complete an online course. Although the argument could be made that a similar drop-off rate would occur if they were attending a campus for F2F teaching, there would be due concern as to why they stopped attending as Sancha pointed out. Yes these courses are open to all but I wonder if in about 10 or 20 years we will find ourselves in a similar situation as we have in the ‘analog’ distribution of education where only those who are self-actualized will be taking these online courses, a minority (granted a larger minority) and not the majority.  There may be motivation to complete a course so as to improve career options/prospects but with the likelihood that the individual will be working for longer and changing their jobs often how will this play out economically (xMOOC)  if accreditation becomes all important?

    David Jennings

    Lots of interesting issues emerging from this discussion already. For me some of the further questions that it prompts are things like:

    • these weaker/less motivated students – are they less motivated across the board, or are they less motivated in some areas, more motivated in others? If there’s a unidimensional measure of high vs low motivation, would you consider different teaching strategies for them? Is that morally defensible e.g. if the highly motivated students end up cross-subsidising the others?
    • the discussion about accreditation and courses compares xMOOC approach with traditional courses with a fixed end point – but what if we relaxed that and accepted that students determine their own targets to some degree? must we have the same benchmark to measure all students? whose interests does that serve?
    • similarly, Sancha’s comment about “huge drop off rate from MOOCs which wouldn’t be acceptable in an f2f institution… no one seems to care“… what if I suggested that MOOCs are a kind of half way house between a course and library/reference reading list for a course? It’s acceptable (isn’t it?) not to read everything on a reading list – but you don’t call it ‘drop off’ if you don’t finish it. Libraries don’t have moral crises of justifying themselves when some of their books remain unread.

    Certainly such analogies are limited, and may be flawed, but I think I’m trying to suggest that there’s more to learning than just the standard A to B course, where it’s a prerequisite that everyone starts in the same place and wants to end up at a shared destination. Maybe think about applying xMOOCs to parts of your teaching and learning practice other than that type of course??

    James Kerr

    Dr. Keith Devlin from Stanford recently wrote about the “Death of the MOOC; Long Live the MOOR”. ( In the piece he states that a better name for MOOCs would be MOOR (Massively Open Online Resource), based on the notion that most people who enroll in MOOCs do so viewing it as a resource, not a course, and only a minority of enrollees have the intention of completing the course.

    Whether it is a directed and centralized xMOOC or a decentralized constructivist cMOOC, it does hold that completion and active participation rates are low, and all but the most active participants come and go at their convenience or leisure; like they are accessing a resource.

    David Jennings

    Agree very much, James. My friend Seb Schmoller did Devlin’s recent MOOC/MOOR and rates him as a shrewd practitioner and commentator on the form. Another friend, Fred Garnett, points out that the M in MOOC is often moot, especially in cMOOCs (ocTEL for example has had around 1,500 registrations, which is quite a lot but only 1% of some xMOOCs, and now it doesn’t feel massive at all), and that they should be called DOOKs – Distributed Open Online Knowledge. Maybe DOORs… though I can’t see that catching on, can you?


    Thank you to James for posting the link to the Keith Devlin blog on his Mathematical Thinking MOOC. It’s a really thought-provoking piece and well worth the read. Keith Devlin’s comments on using a slowly-slowly approach to experimentation and erring on the side of caution when innovating on live courses is something that I’m sure many of us will relate to. As David points out, the course seems highly rated and sounds so interesting it makes me want to sign up!

    From the point of view of the Saylor model, I found that the concept of looking for existing, available resources first and only then considering producing your own content to be thought provoking. I imagine that many start the other way around, so for me maybe I will think more actively about what is already there.
    It also struck me that at one stage, one of the professors interviewed mentioned that he produces a 15-20 minute guide on interpreting and analysing the resources in order to guide / induct students. This for me is still a key area, that of the teacher’s induction into the subject area.


    I like the idea of a MOOR…. With colleagues at my institution, we’ve been creating content for a MOOR over the last year or so (although arguably it’s actually just an OOR). The challenge we’re faced with is to create learning paths through the materials/resources which are there, and in this way to ‘moocify’ it. The resource so  far (still very much in development) can be seen here:

    Really, what we’re trying to do is provide teaching staff both inside and outside our institution with a clear e-learning professional development path/framework and to link this to SEDA fellowship. The idea is to specify various paths (levels) which lead towards accreditation. The learning would be evidenced through some kind of eportfolio or learning record store and there may be an option for a certain amount of online support. We’re thinking that this process would be free for those inside our institution, but for external participants a fee would apply for SEDA accreditation or any tutor support . So, as an OER or as a MOOC (MOOR), it would be free to use, but for any accreditation a fee would be charged – in some ways it’s a  kind of  freemium model I guess. We’re also looking to collaborate with other institutions to develop the resources and paths further…

    Anyway, early days so remains to be seen how it develops…


    Hi, James,

    Certainly a good piece from Dr Devlin, thanks for linking to it.

    I would have agreed more strongly prior to this weeks’ ocTEL activity; but…

    The ‘if you do only one thing‘ activity has caused me to evaluate Saylor’s offering. The interesting aspect is that so much of Saylor’s offering already exists, as they prefer OERs as their first choice. The value Saylor adds, then, is to arrange resources into courses. The knitting process. So…

    Isn’t Saylor’s model something of a rebuttal of the idea that resources trump courses? For we find that the arrangement of resources into courses is their main selling point.

    I’m interested in your opinion on that question (or other colleagues’ opinions).




    James Kerr


    I don’t think I fully agree with the MOOR concept.  If materials aren’t organized into a course structure, then they are already resources;  the structure and organization are what changes it from simply a resource into a course.  The notion of progressing through the resources according to a predetermined path (syllabus) defines the course.

    I gather open resources and use them in my courses.  My courses are undergraduate courses taken for credit, and not an open course.  Most of my 100 or 1000-level courses are taken because of requirements for a degree program, not because the students have such a burning desire to learn introductory computer science.  But my courses remain courses, despite the enrollees’ intentions when they sign up.

    Granted, I do understand considering the rationale and participation levels of most MOOC participants, but the fact remains that the structure created is a course and not only a collection of resources.  If it were only a collection of resources without any progression or direction from an instructor, it would be more of a library, perhaps a TOOL (Technology-enabled Open Online Library)?



    People might also want to see Learnist ( which is a Pinterest-like site for grouping resources for “lessons”. Though it just looksl ike lists to me! I wonder if learners of all ages will lose the ability to find their own materials because there are so many MOOCs and social sites that just bunch stuff together. Or is this just a reaction to the huge and bewildering amount of information that is available?



    I agree with you, James, that the structure is the value that makes it a course. So on that point I think we do want to call them courses rather than resources.

    I think we can see how MIT originally started with OCW, seeing their material as resources. They have since got on board with edX, though their OCW still exists, so now they offer both. The difference is that you have to be a bit of an expert already to take good advantage of OCW, whereas the MITx offerings have fewer gaps between the resources – the learner is led through a more solid path.


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