Course Development and MOOCs (Part 1): The Emergence of a Role

07 Jan

By Ellen Brandenberger

As MOOCs, or Massive Online Open Courseware, emerged over the last several years, the shaping of the industry has been widely influenced by a few large actors, such as edX, Coursera and Udacity, as well as the institutions whose content they distribute and repurpose–Harvard, MIT, and Rice among many.

The emergence of this evolving form of courseware, however, has been at least partially dependent on the rise of a new role in higher education, often dubbed the “course developer.” The role may vary slightly based upon the institution, but the core function is to ensure the successful transformation of university content into new formats and uses: online and otherwise.

Recently, with the help of folks at HarvardX, and as a project course on MOOCs taught by Adjunct Lecturer on Education Justin Reich, I set out to examine the course development role across institutions in the edX Consortia to determine if it was uniform across institutions, or a label with little meaning or standard definition.

To do so, I conducted interviews of individuals in course development roles at four different higher education institutions that develop courses for the edX platform. These eight individuals sat down with me for 1-2 hours each, and I used semi-structured interviews to explore their roles, responsibilities, and qualifications.

Across institutions, I found that all individuals in course development roles had baseline knowledge of all the following skills or attributes, though their levels of experience in each varied greatly.

  • Experience with classroom instruction, educational pedagogy, or instructional technology: All the course developers had experience as educators. Some were college teaching assistants, others had teaching certificates or degrees in instructional design, while others had direct classroom experience.
  • Knowledge of course subject matter: Beyond their knowledge of educational pedagogy, all course developers had expertise or knowledge that complimented at least one of the courses they helped build. For example, one course developer had a PhD in the same field as the online course she was developing. Many, in fact, were originally hired as content experts; yet, as they gained expertise in course development and took on other courses and projects, they became generalists.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]

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Posted by on January 7, 2015 in MOOCs in the News


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