Sunday, March 10, 2013

Turning complaints into suggestions

I am finding that often there will be negative posts in the forums. Not aggressive or vulgar, just negative comments toward the forum itself. I love suggestions. I want to improve. These comments are actually helpful as they point out how the system can be made better. I just don't like the tone they set. The solution is to add "suggestion box" forums that are monitored. If we can give the students a place to comment on the structure itself they tend to post there and the negativity is turned into positive critique. I have begone to create a pinned suggestion forum along with every major forum in the course. This has dramatically lowered the negative comments, and it is much easier to track. Many great improvements were made in the forums because of this.

For instance I made a set of DAW forums which is a large collection of forums where students can post information related to the software they are using. I created subforums for each of the major DAW's on the market.

These forums were announced in a weekly announcement and have become very popular. Immediately there were some negative comments:

"why wasn't ____DAW included? it is a great DAW they shouldn't leave it out!"

The honest truth is I didn't even know that that DAW existed! It was totally new to me.
I added that forum quickly.

Then I added a "How can I make the DAW forums better?" thread and pinned it so it stays in a visible location and subscribed to it via e-mail.

It turns out there were a few other DAWs that I didn't include, but the students used the new thread and politely asked for the DAW to be added, which I promptly did.

Mooc teachers need to include the students in the community we are creating. Show the community that you want suggestions and they will help you make them better. Do not take a "I am the authority" stance, it will not work. Instead include the community in the discussion at every point.

By including the community it its own development you turn complaints into suggestions.


  1. It's great that you are this commited to making everything work and run smoothly!

  2. You are providing a great service to future MOOC instructors by recording your real-time experience. I don't know how you manage to keep up with all of this!

    I tend to be pretty easy going with things like this, assuming best intentions on behalf of the instructor. The tone one takes in a message is so important and really sets the stage for how palatable a critique can be...