Instructional Quality of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

I was pleased to hear that our paper on the quality of instructional design of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has been accepted for publication in Computers and Education.  

Abstract:  We present an analysis of instructional design quality of 76 randomly selected Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The quality of MOOCs was determined from first principles of instruction, using a course survey instrument. Two types of MOOCs – xMOOCs and cMOOCs – were analysed and their instructional design quality was assessed and compared. We found that the majority of MOOCs scored poorly on most instructional design principles. However, most MOOCs scored highly on organisation and presentation of course material. The results indicate that although most MOOCs are well-packaged, their instructional design quality is low. We outline implications for practice and ideas for future research.

The full paper will be available online shortly; in the meantime, a draft is available for download.

It took 18 months to get to this stage from the conception of the study:

  • conception of the project idea and securing internal funding for a research assistant – Feb 2013;
  • search and recruitment of a research assistant – Feb-Jul 2013 (6 months);
  • data collection – Sep-Dec 2013 (4 months);
  • data analysis – Jan 2014;
  • publication – Feb-Aug 2014 (7 months), including: (i)submission of the first draft of the article – Feb 2014; (ii) review received – Apr 2014; (iii) resubmission of 2nd draft – May 2014; (iv)second review received – Jul 2014; (v) resubmission and acceptance of the final draft – Aug 2014.  

So the actual conception and execution of the study took just 6/18 months…

Citation: Margaryan, A., Bianco, M., & Littlejohn, A. (in press). Instructional quality of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Computers and Education.

Open teaching, open learning

Cormier and Siemens reflect on their experiences with teaching open courses, in particular a form of course that they term ‘massive online open course’ or MOOC.

Of particular interest to me were their observations on educators’ roles in open courses: “Open learning adjusts the role of the educator with respect to access to new content and engagement tools now under the control of the learner. Educators continue to play an important role in facilitating interaction, sharing information and resources, challenging assertions, and contributing to learners’ growth of knowledge.” They list the following teacher roles:

  • Amplifying – drawing attention to important ideas/concepts
  • Curating – arranging readings and resources to scaffold concepts
  • Wayfinding – assisting learners to rely on social sense-making through networks
  • Aggregating – displaying patterns in discussions and content
  • Filtering – assisting learners in thinking critically about information/conversations available in networks
  • Modeling – displaying successful information and interaction patterns
  • Staying present – maintaining continual instructor presence during the course, particularly during natural activity lulls

Compare this with the more familar list – delivering lectures, marking assignments, monitoring attendance, and so on.

Other ideas and principles they put forward that resonated with me:

  • “Content itself is not a sufficient value point on which to build the future of higher education”
  • “The registration process is the approach to the conversation; the filtering, the deciding whether or not to participate, happens after registration”
  • “The opening up of the teaching process is an important dimension of openness in education more broadly.”
  • “The community-as-curriculum model inverts the position of curriculum: rather than being a prerequisite for a course, curriculum becomes an output of a course.”

Reference: Cormier, D., & Siemens, G. (2010). Through the open door: Open courses as research, learning, and engagement. EDUCAUSE Review, 45(4), 30-39. [Online]