‘Running A MOOC’ –   A Multi Modal Approach

Yvonne Crotty
DCU

The term to ‘run amok’ is a phrase often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy.  The term also reflects the feelings of some higher-level institutions today to ‘run a Mooc’ so that they can be seen adhering to the latest trends of using technology.

In recent times there has been an explosion of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) being delivered by Universities worldwide.  A free course on Artificial-Intelligence offered by Stanford University in California in 2008 accelerated interest and attracted over 160,000 students globally — 23,000 of whom finished it.  The various MOOCs found on Udacity, Coursera, Canvas and Edx numbers in excess of 380 at the moment and a global interest in their worth continue to dominate discussion forums. With top colleges such as Stanford and Harvard amongst some of those leading in MOOC delivery, there is a growing pressure for less resourced younger Universities like Dublin City University (DCU) to follow suit and provide this free service.

The following paper will demonstrate how the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Education Studies in DCU creatively addressed the use of MOOCs over a 12 week period. First year students from the Masters in Education and Training Management  (eLearning) (MEME) were asked to partake in the Science of Communications MOOC given by the University of Amsterdam. The aim of this task was to supplement students’ Multimedia and Innovation and Emerging pedagogies modules. Students were tasked with documenting their observations and findings from their experience in an online journal on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Moodle.

The learning outcomes of the task for students were to:

  • Experience being involved in the latest trend in technology;
  • Have a better understanding of methodology, ethnography /auto-ethnography by employing relevant data collection methods;
  • Learn about the content of the MOOC (Science of Communications);
  • Link pedagogical literature to MOOCs as a learning platform;
  • Design an infographic of their experience;
  • Allow students to compare their experiences of being a student in a MOOC and a student on their MEME programme;
  • Represent the MOOC in a different format (video) so that others could vicariously get a sense of partaking in a MOOC.

In this presentation it can be seen how the students, in their involvement in a MOOC culture and through re-imagining learning begin to understand what it meant to partake in an auto-ethnographic study.  It also demonstrates the importance of presenting research findings using a multi-modal approach.  As Elkins (2008) suggests the study undertaken by students has provided Higher Education with an opportunity to take up the challenge of experiencing a visual culture “core curriculum”.   I have also taken Yen Yen Joyceln Woo’s (2008) advice on board in that we should ‘experiment with as many forms as possible, to communicate what we know about meaningful, just, and humane education to as many people as possible’ (p. 327).  Bruce-Ferguson (2008) also advocates the need to ‘validate forms of research that can convey knowledge not easily encapsulated just within pages of text’ (p. 25). The student video productions generated from this study will also validate Bruce-Ferguson’s (2008) claim.

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