Course design

ByGiuliano Alviani

Recommendations: Course design

In this section, we presented ten selected recommendations for a design a Business MOOC:

  • Recommendations for Business MOOC Design
    1. Do your homework regarding the choice of topic(s) and your target group(s)
    2. Carefully select the platform which fits to your type of MOOC as well as to your audience
    3. Design your MOOC to engage appropriately with as many learners in your target audience(s) as possible
    4. Use educational design tools and well-approved didactical approaches
    5. Get early feedback by running pre-tests with your target Group
    6. Especially focus on the first week and “ice-breaking activities”
    7. Strike a good balance between different forms of activities and resources
    8. Hints for creating Videos
    9. Hints for Multiple Choice Questions
    10. Hints for Re-use of materials

Recommendations for Business MOOC Design

Do your homework regarding the choice of topic(s) and your target group(s) by carrying out market analysis in different areas, such as:
  • Existing MOOCs on your envisaged MOOC topic. You could start with MOOC aggregators like Class Central or MOOClist and then scan the major MOOC platforms, but be aware that not all MOOCs are listed there.
  • Existing other training / (e-)learning offers to your topic.
  • Speak to your target group, the potential learners: What do they think? What would they need? How would they like to learn that topic?
  • Speak to decision-makers and multipliers: What do they think? What do they need? (e.g. look at the competence framework of companies)
  • If it is not possible to engage directly with learners or companies, apply market/customer analysis tools, such as Personas or the Empathy Map.
Carefully select the platform which fits to your type of MOOC as well as to your audience
  • For example, when going for a collaborative/community-based MOOC, does the platform offer the required level of interactivity?
  • Is the sign-up procedure simple enough for your target audience?
  • Is the platform professional enough for your target audience?
  • What about accessibility of content on different (mobile) devices and for different types of users (age, profession, sector, experience, education, confidentiality, security, legal and technical issues, specific needs etc.)?
  • Who owns the uploaded content? Consider openly licensed content and keeping track of assets via an asset log etc. (e.g. process for course design), acknowledgements etc. -> for more information to this topic, check out our guidelines for business and higher education.
Design your MOOC to engage appropriately with as many learners in your target audience(s) as possible
  • Consider that familiarity with MOOCs varies among learners.
  • Be clear about who your target audience(s) is (are) and their learning outcomes.
  • Consider providing MOOC content in multiple languages (be aware of additional costs and effort).
  • Include examples or activities which reflect specific target audience(s) localities/circumstances.
  • Try to offer additional community building activities, which differentiate your MOOC from others (e.g. closing event, outtakes from videos etc.)
Use educational design tools and well-approved didactical approaches
  • Familiarize yourself with different tools. We used for example Learning Design Principles, e-Moderation tools (Gilly Salmon), but there are others.
  • Choose an appropriate learning design framework (and adapt it to your needs if appropriate). This will help you structure the development process and ensure your MOOC delivers on the intended learning outcomes.
Get early feedback by running pre-tests with your target Group
  • Estimate the required time to complete the MOOC and specific activities upfront and test it with your target group.
  • If possible, let representatives of your target group try out an early prototype of your MOOC in front of you and observe them.
  • Collect your observations and improve your MOOC design accordingly.
Especially focus on the first week and “ice-breaking activities”
  • Provide inviting and engaging first activities: easy to accomplish and clearly related to the subject area.
  • The entry barrier should usually be low (except maybe for some highly specialized MOOCs), maybe integrate some “fun” element if it fits to your target group.
  • Incorporate an interactive element and try to stimulate a discussion (applicable to facilitated, time-bound MOOCs, less to self-paced MOOCs)
  • You can easily raise the level of difficulty in activities later on in the course.
  • Carefully consider what fits to your target group and topic.
Strike a good balance between different forms of activities and resources
  • MOOC learners appreciate a mix of reading, watching diverse video materials, doing self-tests, quizzes, taking part in discussions etc.
  • This diversification helps to cater different learning types/styles, it potentially introduces deeper learning processes and a self-reinforcing learning loop.
  • Multimedia is important, but only if the content is good.
  • Include links to a wide range of resources (including non-English websites and other materials learners might find useful) so that the learners can deepen their knowledge by themselves.
Hints for creating Videos
  • Stick to the point.
  • Shorten videos to cover essential content only.
  • Make sure your videos feature diverse resources and examples.
  • Consider the maximum time length of videos. If a topic cannot be explained in a 3-5 min video, split it into two or more “digestible” parts. It makes a huge difference for your learners.
  • No long welcome and farewell procedures in the videos.
  • No repetition of what is already written/communicated.
  • For videos added while the MOOC is running (such as weekly summaries), the learners do not expect the same high quality of the video recording (but do expect the content of these videos to be of good quality).
Hints for Multiple Choice Questions
  • run pre-tests with people (not) familiar with the topic and incorporate their feedback,
  • make the questions meaningful and directly aligned with the course’s content,
  • avoid vague wording, potentially correct/incorrect answers (unless you do not want to stimulate lively learner discussions about the question and it´s right or wrong answers, sometimes this can even be a strategy to active learners),
  • provide self-training options with similar questions that learner can train and get familiar with your style of multiple choice questions,
  • avoid double negation question/answer options.
Hints for Re-use of materials
  • Many, many openly licensed useful materials are available and can be reused in a new MOOC. Ensure that you take time to review existing content and assess whether it can be integrated successfully into your new MOOC.
  • While a MOOC with a lot of external content potentially allows for faster implementation, this will potentially require higher levels of maintenance in the long-term. The possibility of “link rot” and external resources being removed or links not working anymore means that solutions or alternatives may need to be found.
  • However, in the instance of openly licensed resources re-use also enables the original material to be tailored to the context and specific goals and target group of your MOOC. i.e., reused materials (videos, educational material, assignments and quizzes) can be adjusted to the course, made available on the MOOC platform and include a reference to the original resource.
  • When existing videos cannot be re-edited, it is advisable to only let the video play relevant sections instead of the whole video (although this creates interdependencies with external sites and needs regular checking/permanent maintenance).