The Highly Engaging MOOC: It’s All About Being SocialAmy Rouse | Director, AT&T University
Now is an incredible time to be a learning professional. From learning technology to learner methodologies, we’re in a unique place in history. Distance learning is one of the most exciting evolutions in our space. From the highly collaborative Interactive Video Learning (IVL) to the evolving one-to-many virtual learning technologies such as Adobe Connect, we have a number of options available to deliver quality content to virtual audiences.
Consider MOOCs (massive open online courses). While they have been around for a few years now, they are just making inroads into corporate learning and the findings are quite positive. Within the corporate context we may refer to them as C-MOOCs, MOCs, SPOCs or COOCs, but we know that MOOCs are a strategic addition to the corporate learning strategy. MOOCs enjoy a far higher completion rate in the business sector, as do most formal learning resources. This is because employees are typically required to complete certain courses, or they are motivated to complete coursework that will prepare them for new roles and opportunities, keeping their skills current and relevant to the employer.
What makes the best MOOCs the best? I believe it is the tight integration of social networks.
The best MOOCs not only employ engaging content that is delivered in small bites, but they provide robust social capabilities. Highly engaging MOOCs see participants forming online cohorts and communities of practice. Using integrated social networks and chat, learners can interact with each other and the instructor or facilitator for a richer experience. Interactions between learners tend to occur more often during homework assignments, troubleshooting code or reviewing project work prior to formal review by the instructor. Coaches are often available to assist along the way as well.
Learning is all about the learner. Providing students with a variety of learning avenues results in a richer, more meaningful experience. We see that students who actively engage in the social aspects of the MOOC report higher satisfaction with the course as well as greater retention. Students who teach what they’ve learned experience higher levels of mastery. Offering rich social learning integration provides the means for this to occur organically. Oftentimes we will see students continuing to interact after the training is complete, continuing their learning as the move into new roles or deeper areas of study.
MOOC designers hit the mark when they purposefully integrate opportunities for learners to interact with one another (for example, reviewing each other’s assignments, posting comments to a forum as a part of the instruction, etc.). Incorporating chat or instant messaging is also a social component to consider. When real-time chat is employed be sure to set expectations regarding facilitator availability. Students often answer each other’s questions far more frequently than the instructor, but we should be careful to ensure messages are not ignored, especially when students ask for help. Ignoring student questions is the quickest way to poor marks on satisfaction surveys.
For those new to MOOCs, preparation is key to ensuring your learners understand how a MOOC works, the expectations with regard to pacing their coursework, interacting with other students and the instructor/coaches as well as familiarity with the platform functionality and the tools and resources available to them. There are still people who are not used to social networking, so gently encouraging them and allowing them to experiment with the technology in a safe environment can be very helpful. A brief tutorial made available to all new MOOC students prior to engaging in their first MOOC is a great idea.
MOOCs are a great addition to a corporate learning strategy. If implementing internal MOOCs, be sure you have the time and talent to thoughtfully plan, design, develop and deliver your strategy and courseware. When selecting partners for MOOC development or delivery, do your homework and take some of the MOOCs yourself. Are the modules engaging? Do they allow for plenty of student interaction? Whether your MOOCs are internal or external, don’t ignore the value of social learning—let your learners get social and learn from one another!
Author Perspective: Employer