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Producing a MOOC

Once your course plan is in place, you’ll need to turn your attention to producing course content — not just lecture videos but also assessments, illustrations, transcripts, and handouts.

For additional guidance, see Planning a MOOC and Deploying a MOOC.

By the end of this section, you will know how to:

  1. Write summative assessments aligned with course learning objectives.
  2. Write formative assessments aligned with module learning objectives.
  3. Write discussion prompts.
  4. Prepare teaching materials (scripts, slides, readings, etc.) aligned with learning objectives & assessments.
  5. Record video and audio components of lectures.

Assessment development

All formative and summative assessments should be clearly aligned with course and module learning objectives. Instructors should take the time to understand the assessment opportunities and limitations available through the platform on which the MOOC will be delivered. In general, MOOCs can include objective auto-graded assessments (multiple choice or numeric quizzes and exams), programming assignments in which structured learner-produced outputs are automatically compared with benchmarks, and peer reviewed assignments in which learners use a rubric to evaluate one another’s work.

The large learner popultion in MOOCs requires instructors to rely heavily on auto-graded assessments, so instructors must take care to write questions and feedback that genuinely reinforce learning and assess progress toward objectives. See Multiple Choice Questions – Key Principles from the JHSPH Center for Teaching and Learning. These quizzes can be deployed as either formative (in-video quizzes or practice quizzes) or summative (graded quizzes and exams) assessments.

Peer review is another important MOOC assessment tool that leverages the power of the large learner population to evaluate and grade learner-generated products (papers, projects, presententations, graphics, etc) that require subjective review and feedback. Peer review assessments are especially valuable because they provide a structured multi-step learning activity in which learners benefit from the process of reviewing and responding to their classmates’ work. Instructors should take care to develop assignment instructions, examples, and rubrics that align with learning objectives and are able to administered consistently and fairly.

After assessments have been developed and finalized, they should be deployed on the course platform with the provided authoring tools, which allow instructors and support staff to customize instructions, questions, feedback, benchmarks, and rubrics.

Discussion prompts

Participation in the course discussion forum can be rewarding and can help learners crystalize their thinking, assess their own progress, and access other perspectives. Some learners easily dive right into the forum, but many are apprehensive and need a little nudge. Discussion prompts are invitations to reflect on the topic at hand and contribute to the conversation. They should be inserted at regular intervals throughout your course. Prompts can be generic (e.g. “Is there anything that you don’t understand about this lesson?”) or very specific (e.g. “Describe food purchasing options within a five-mile radius of your home?).

Teaching materials

Most MOOCs feature video lectures with illustrative visual elements such as slides, charts, graphics, demonstrations, and animations. Instructors should prepare these elements in such a way that are free of third-party copyright violations. Instructors should also be mindful of accessibility when preparing materials. Avoid using color as a differentiator in charts, use fonts that are highly legible, and adhere to structured templates that will generate accompanying handouts that are compatible with screen reading software.

When preparing lecture materials, instructors should always be mindful of the learning objectives and the assessments that they’ve developed to measure learner progress. The materials should be integrated with these elements to ensure a final product that is logically delivered and pedagogically sound.

In addition to the core lectures and assessments, instructors should develop other materials to help learners navigate the course and engage with the topic. These materials include a syllabus, grading policy, recommended and required readings, motivational messages, transcripts, and data files. Instructors should again be mindful of copyright and accessibility when preparing and posting these materials.

Recording lectures

Instructors should pick a lecture format that suits their topic and teaching style. Please see our Video Lecture Gallery for examples of a few different formats. There are several units within JHU that can collaborate with instructors on the recording and editing phases. See the list of divisional teaching and learning centers. These units have the equipment, software, and expertise to achieve the production values of an effective and well-presented MOOC.

In general, instructors should focus on presenting their lectures with enthusiasm and clarity, articulating why the lesson is important and using plenty of examples to illustrate and reinforce the key takeaways. Instructors should also budget a considerable amount of time for preparation, composing scripts if necessary and thoroughly rehearsing their lectures in order to maximize the recording time in the studio.

During post-production, instructors should again collaborate with professional editors for one of the JHU units that support MOOC production. During the editing phase, video and audio editors choose the best takes, remove errors, and merge the recording with the visual elements prepared by the instructor. The final product is then rendered and exported in a compatible format (typically MP4) that can be deployed on the MOOC platform.

As a final step in the production process, instructors should arrange for an independent reviewer to perform a systematic review of the entire course and all the materials. This review should be conducted from the learner perspective and should be performed by an experienced reviewer. The instructor and course team should then act upon the reviewer’s feedback before launching the course.

If you want to learn more about how to get started, please complete our MOOC Inquiry Form or contact Ira Gooding, Provost’s Fellow for Digital Initiatives, at 410-955-9280 or [email protected].

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