Recommendations: Participation

ByGiuliano Alviani

Recommendations: Participation and completion

In this section, we presented four selected recommendations for how to improve participation and completion in Business MOOCs:

  • Recommendations for Participation and Completion Rates in Business MOOCs
    1. Increase the flexibility and convenience of your MOOC
    2. A well-planned communication policy is key to maintaining learner Motivation
    3. Hints regarding teamwork in MOOCs
    4. Hints regarding certificates

Recommendations for Participation and Completion Rates in Business MOOCs

Increase the flexibility and convenience of your MOOC
  • Apply an easy and convenient sign-up procedure. This might be another criteria for choosing your platform.
  • If the MOOC is facilitated and run in set time, respect your target audience´s schedule. It is especially important to provide clear advice on the:
    • length of the MOOC, each section and the estimated time activities shall take,
      • when you should start and finish your MOOC (timing of the whole MOOC),
      • when you will publish new content. When scheduling this consider business schedules, working/free time, weekends, holidays etc.
  • Run a pre-course survey and consider expectations and
    prior knowledge of your learners, as this also influences the success rate and the estimated required time to participate in the MOOC. For example, if the knowledge gap is to too large to start the course effectively, offer some additional material and refer to other courses to help scaffold leaners effectively.
  • If supported by the platform, offer flexibility to your learners with different course paths:
    • Define minimum participation requirements;
    • Scan your MOOC and mark “must-have” content and “nice-to-have” content to help your learners with limited time to complete the essential components of the course;
    • Consider offering a “fast track” which comes with a minimum certificate;
    • Provide different opportunities for deepening one’s understanding of complexity of the subject;
    • Offer a range of next steps aimed at different levels or contexts.
  • Provide (realistic) estimated workloads for the modules and activities so that learners can plan their contributions.
  • Try to strike a balance between being strict vs. flexible, for example with exam deadlines for a business audience. Moreover, we would not suggest to grant too much time for an assignment or task (e.g. 5 hours for a peer-review which takes only 30 min.), as this can be misunderstood and scare off your learners. Keep expectations realistic!
A well-planned communication policy is key to maintaining learner Motivation
  • Promote course enrolment, but do not forget to also promote course participation and completion.
  • Be clear about how you will communicate with participants at the start of course.
  • Send reminders to learners on a regular (e.g. weekly) basis.
  • If you start with regular reminders, ensure that you stick to your communication policy until the end of the MOOC. Your learners will get used to it, rely on it and appreciate this.
  • Be concise and easy-to-follow with instructions and descriptions, especially when it comes to deadlines and group work requirements.
  • Stimulate your learners with easy and fun “ice-breaking” activities. Once your learners became visible, it is much more likely that they will stay active in your MOOC.
  • Provide overviews/summaries for each module/week, but focus on the outcomes of the discussion, what was new/new content/interesting points from forum discussions/areas of the course people found difficult and/or activities/conclusions. Do not summarize the task descriptions or regurgitate content already available in the MOOC.
  • Depending on platform functionality, enable learners to track their progress and motivate themselves appropriately. This gives a better overview, motivates and also provides the course creator with information about how the course was being used.
  • Ongoing feedback at the end of learning milestones or sections/weeks help to keep learners motivated and engaged.
  • There should be a clear indicator of progress in the MOOC for the learner after each module/course section.
  • Consider an official closing event (if not self-paced): especially when offering MOOCs over a longer period with active user participation. When offering such an event, we recommend:
    • considering the form of the closing event (for example a hot seat, but always include different ways of participation for learners, e.g. in an online hang-out, YouTube livestream, in a chat forum, etc.)
    • communicating the date and purpose at the beginning of the MOOC;
    • preparing your own inputs (e.g., share outtakes of the video recording, some background stories (what happened behind the scenes), etc.) and leave room for your learners to feedback;
    • offering a Social Media follow-up exchange place, e.g. a LinkedIn Group or other networks, if appropriate.
  • Encourage your learners to become co-creators of your MOOC and potentially create a ‘community’ around your course, by:
    • inviting learners to design specific activities/assignments (see good practice) or use material/resources developed by learners during the MOOC in future iterations (you will need make it clear in the introduction to the MOOC that this will happen, how these will be licensed and enable people to opt out, etc.);
    • initiate stimulating discussions;
    • acknowledging their level of expertise and experience;s
    • asking for their feedback and opinions;
    • and by not answering every discussion/question in the forum. In some cases, fellow learners responded to questions and subsequently became “co-mentors” of the course. Be more reflective and engaging instead of assuming that you as the course creator are the only expert on the topic.
Hints regarding teamwork in MOOCs
  • Carefully design group selection process and criteria:
    • Bottom-Up vs. Top-Down: let the participants choose/suggest co-learners for their group who they already know from discussions according to preferences/sympathies/similar thinking vs. an automatic group building via fixed criteria (e.g. time-zone, languages, topic, time budget etc.).
    • Be aware that bottom-up instigated teams could be time intensive and require a high level of responsibility from your learners; typically, only very few, highly-engaged learners will do this.
  • Create the teams as early as possible in the MOOC. Counter-argument: If you build the groups at a later stage in your MOOC, a lot of inactive learners have already dropped out (self-selection) and the ones which have stayed the course are more likely to stay active in the group work.
  • Design the collaborative activities for a team of MOOC participants carefully; they should be engaging and output related. Also counteract for possible fee-riding (e.g. with a peer-reviewing scheme) and facilitate possible f2f meetings (e.g. by using same location as one criteria for grouping teams)
  • Strengthen the discussion part, and make it as user-friendly as possible (with moderation, overviews, etc.)
  • Strengthen the role of moderators / mentors (e.g. by official introduction at the beginning of the teamwork, establishing common rules, etc.)
  • Complement online groups with Social Media interactions, e.g. by providing a personal message tool (or profile link to LinkedIn account)
  • Complement online groups with offline meeting options: for this, geographical proximity must be a criterion for building the teams.
Hints regarding certificates
  • Badges and/or a certificate of participation could motivate approximately 50% of your learners. Yet different participants have different needs and preferences. A student could be interested in a certificate she/he can use at her/his university, while an employee might be interested in a certificate for career-related motives.
  • Various kinds of certificates coupled to various course-tracks might help motivation, but might also complicate the delivery of the MOOC. Find the right balance between motivation, flexibility, the needs of your target group and simplicity.
  • A formal course recognition with ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) or similar motivates and increases learner engagement/interest with the course.
    • For recognition etc., you can also explore our discussion paper on recognition and certification of MOOCs.
    • Can your MOOC potentially become an element of a certified larger programme (e.g. a regular ECTS-based university offer, an official company training programme or even part of a Micro-Credential)?