Written by Tobias Tretter, Chair of the Student Voice Group (more detailed bio below)
What is a MOOC?
MOOC – the ordinary reader will ask himself what this abbreviation means and stands for. It was not any different for me then, when I heard these four letters for the first time, but I became acquainted with this new thing really quickly. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. This says a bit more, but not everything. MOOCs are free online courses that are available to the public. The University of London (UOL) has started offering some on a platform called Coursera alongside other leading Universities from other countries, for example the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The University of London has already launched 23 MOOCs which have attracted more than one million participants worldwide. I recently had the opportunity to get involved in the review process for University of London MOOCs.
MOOCs usually do not require any pre-knowledge, and they appear mainly in two forms. The first one is the traditional lecture style with mainly videos, supplemented by articles and book excerpts to be read – and assessed by a multiple choice exam in the end. The second form is based more on a seminar or workshop where students watch videos and read articles and are then assessed via feedback on eachother’s work (peer review) and the development of new ideas. There is also the possibility to obtain a certificate when completing such a MOOC. However, the certificate costs some money. If the course is done without the aim of obtaining a certificate it is completely free and can be finished in the same way as for participants obtaining a certificate.
Getting involved in the review process for University of London MOOCs
Before a University of London MOOC goes online it is reviewed by a panel of the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Sub-committee (LTAS). Student members have been appointed on such panels since 2014. I have participated in two of these review events and want to share with you here my experience of these.
The opportunity to join a MOOC review panel came from the Student Affairs Team, who circulated details by email to all student members of International Academy committees.
After my expression of interest was accepted, I received soon after an email with instructions for the upcoming week and got told to register online at www.coursera.org. After a few days I got access to the course which was still in the ‘construction’ phase and not yet half complete. Only the first two or three modules had been completed and I had only full access to the materials of these modules. During the following week I watched the videos which were already online and read the articles. While going through the materials I was trying to see the course through student eyes. I asked myself whether the videos were understandable for someone without any pre-knowledge, and considered the quality. I did the same with other materials provided within the MOOC. As a second step I considered the whole MOOC, its structure, the balance of content in each module and checked that these were consistent with the stated learning outcomes. As a last step I considered the assessment methods – specifically, their difficulty, type and relevance and wrote out my opinions on a form which was sent to panel members in advance.
After sending the form back to the Secretary of the review panel, the suggested improvements were quite soon adopted and problems fixed, e.g. broken links, pieces of text which could not be accessed, and confusing module or video titles.
Reflections on being involved in this process
Through being on a review panel, I got introduced to two completely new areas which I would have never covered during my legal studies. The first MOOC was on Brand Management which I followed even after the review session. The second MOOC was on Global Diplomacy which was another really interesting course, especially because it was more held in a seminar style instead of the lecture style used in Brand Management.
Participating in a MOOC approval panel gave me the possibility to get introduced to new areas and become familiar with MOOCs from a critical point of view in terms of examining the content as well as the implementation. It was worthwhile to participate and to know that I could contribute to quality standards of the University of London’s MOOCs. With already a million participants within 23 MOOCs it is important that every single one is tested and checked in terms of quality of content and composition. As one of the panel members I could contribute to this process and assure that the courses maintain a certain standard and are improved before going online and being made public to everyone. I am glad that I could help in that way and could bring an opinion from a student’s perspective into the review process.
MOOC – Enhance your Career and Employability Skills
By the way, have you seen that one of the University of London’s MOOCs was recently made available to the whole student body via the VLE (Enhance your Career and Employability Skills)? Have you already done this MOOC or are you doing it right now? If so, please tell me – below in the comments – what your experiences have been.
If you are interested in a special area and if you see that a MOOC on that topic is out there, do it! Especially if you have no or just very little pre-knowledge.
Tobias is studying the University of London International Programmes LLB, alongside a degree in German Law at a German University. He is the Chair of the University of London International Programmes Student Voice Group (SVG), and the undergraduate student member of the University of London International Academy’s Academic Committee alongside Peter. During this academic year, Tobias has sat as a student member on two MOOC review panels (Brand Management and Global Diplomacy).
Student membership is an important element of YouEngage, the student engagement programme at the University of London International Programmes. Read more about YouEngage by visiting www.londoninternational.ac.uk/youengage