Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Resources of a Coursera MOOC and their application in the impmooc

Here are the resources of a Coursera MOOC and some notes on how I have decided to use them in my course.

Video Lessons

The student watches a series of short videos that cover the material. These are the primary content delivery method and they are the virtual lectures.

The videos in the impmooc were recorded in a Berkleemusic studio using two cameras and were edited by the berkleemusic staff. Many videos also include screenmovies on particular topics, these were created by be in my home studio.

My goal was to make these professional, personal, and short. In general the videos in my class are under six minutes long, some going on to 15 minutes for the tougher topics. I feel that by making short focused videos the student's can use their time as effectively as possible. Short topic based videos also allow the student to move through the material in a non-linear fashion. Since students have a wide range of skill levels the more advanced students can watch only the topics that they need.


Quizzes are multiple choice questions that are graded automatically by the system. In this MOOC the quizzes make up 40% of the student's final grade. The quizzes can be taken as many times as possible and the number of tries has no impact on the final grade. The role of the quizzes is to reinforce knowledge and for the student to self-check what they learned. Many students take the quizzes first allowing them to pick and choose which of the videos to watch. I like this approach and have even considered putting the quizzes before their related videos.

In the impmooc quizzes are used after a series of related videos. So, each week has about 5 quizzes each with 6 to 20 questions.

The system allows for many different usages and formats of the quizzes, what I have listed here is how they are used in the impmooc.

Peer Review Assignments

For me, this the most interesting and most difficult portion of the MOOC equation. Unlike the videos and quizzes, peer review assignments do not have a direct correlation to a traditional classroom.

Here is how peer review assignments work:

  • A student completes an assignment and uploads their work.
  • The student then reviews some of their classmate's assignments.

Developing a peer review assignment that is effective and engaging has turned out to be quite difficult. Here are some of the challenges in creating a peer reviewed assignment:

  • The assessor is often less knowledgeable than the one being assessed.
  • Assessors have limited free time and must assess multiple assignments.
  • The students have a huge range of skill levels.
  • International community with multiple languages.
  • Wide range of technical skills.
  • Resistance to new modes of learning.

I will let you think about this one yourself for a while, there will be a blog post soon that outlines my solution to the peer review assignments.


Forums provide a place for the students to communicate with each other. On coursera they have up and down voting and a quite robust organizational structure. Managing and organizing the forums becomes the major task of the teacher. In many ways the teacher in a MOOC is a "community organizer" focusing the forums, structuring organized conversations, and spotting common misunderstandings in the material and assignments.


Coursera provides a robust wiki structure. Each class has a dedicated wiki that can be edited by the students so that they can create a common pool of knowledge. Additional wikis can be created by the instructor for a variety of purposes. Creating a resource as a group is a wonderful possibility of a MOOC and one that I hope to explore in the impmooc with regards to examining concepts in multiple types of software.


Faculty can post announcement on the front page of the MOOC and also have them e-mailed to the students. This provides a way for the course to "ping" students, remind them that the course is still running and active. Additionally, it allows the teacher to notify the student of changes in the course that happen in response to the student forum comments.

Social(external resources)

Faculty can introduce social networking to bring the class into the student's common internet life. It becomes an interesting question on how to utilize the social networking aspect. A common critique of MOOCS is that the students don't get any personal connection to the professor, so maybe social networking is a perfect way to show the person behind the course. I also feel much of the student critique and complaint doesn't consider that there is a real person trying their best to create a great learning situation behind the scenes. By exposing more of the teacher's personality and reasoning through social networking I hope that the students will have empathy for the instructor(me).

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