Learning From MOOCs

27 Feb

By Marie Norman

I’ve been working recently with a faculty member who is turning his thermodynamics course into a massive open online course, or MOOC. Working on this project, I’ve noticed that MOOCs have distinctive features that can help instructors avoid certain instructional pitfalls while simultaneously steering them in the direction of others.

Paying attention to these features in the context of MOOCs, I think, can help us be aware of — and avoid — the same problems in other teaching situations, online or face-to-face.

Pitfalls MOOCs Can Help Us Avoid

Because MOOC audiences are by definition large, they require faculty to design their courses for the broadest possible audience. This includes students without deep background knowledge in the subject area and students with diverse (and often weak) motivations for taking the course. Having to consider such a broad audience pushes faculty in directions that can help them overcome four common instructional problems.

Expert blind spot. EBS refers to the tendency we have as experts in our disciplines to move so quickly and intuitively through the familiar terrain of our subject matter that we omit important information, skip key steps and fail to point out critical connections. Instructor EBS can leave students, as relative novices, struggling to keep up. In over 10 years in faculty development, I’ve come to regard EBS as enemy number one in teaching.

MOOCs, because of their broad audience, compel instructors to use simpler language and proceed more systematically through content material. By actively working against EBS, the MOOC approach is likely to serve students in other kinds of courses as well.

Takeaway: As an expert in your discipline, you’re subject to expert blind spot. It comes with the territory. But you can consciously work against EBS by developing the habit of asking yourself: Have I left out any important information, connections or steps that students need to make sense of or apply this material?

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Best Practices


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