Reflections on a MOOC

Coll, Brian, Donovan, John, Mulligan, Brian and Tobin, Kieran (2014) Reflections on a MOOC. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


In February 2013, IT Sligo were the first college in Ireland to announce a MOOC which went on to attract over 2000 participants from 45 countries. This was also the first MOOC wordwide on the topic of Lean Sigma Quality. Since then, two additional MOOCs have been offered in Ireland. This paper will outline the challenges in delivering a high quality MOOC where standards are being set by leading colleges and hosting platforms such as EdX, Coursera and Udacity to name but a few. In contrast to such offerings, the MOOC development team at IT Sligo had to develop both the infrastructure to support a MOOC along with the course content and assessments. The IT Sligo MOOC set out from the start to utilise the same technology and infrastructure in the college that is used to support the current online degree programmes. For example, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) used was MOODLE which was upgraded to the latest version and a new theme installed. in addition, server upgrades had to be completed to support the increased student load. This meant that improvements introduced in the MOOC could be leveraged across future college online courses. From an assessment perspective, it was recognised that automated marking was a requirement due to the large numbers. In addition, the final assignment used peer marking which was easily the most controversial element of the course based on Forum postings. While many students felt it was a much 'richer' type of assignment than a quiz, there were challenges in responding to student queries and allowing for appeals particularly where their 'peers' gave them low marks! In line with other MOOCs, the workload in preparing the course was considerable and even though it was a free course, student expectations are arguably higher than those of 'fee-paying' students. With Forum postings being emailed to all students, minor issues have to be dealt with before they escalate. A detailed risk analysis carried out by the team before the MOOC commenced assisted in de-risking many of the potential troublesome areas. The completion rate was high with 31% of those that started the course successfully completing it. This compares very favourably with other MOOCs from leading colleges. Feedback both during the MOOC and the end of course survey was very positive and already there are 500 pre-registered for the next running of the MOOC.

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