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MOOCs for K-12 Teacher Professional Learning: Design Considerations

Anissa Lokey-Vega (Kennesaw State University & Bagwell College of Education, USA)
Jordan Cameron (Kennesaw State University, USA)
Additional Authors
Lee Langub (Kennesaw State University, USA)
Julia Fuller (Kennesaw State University, USA)
Laurie Brantley-Dias (Kennesaw State University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 3:45pm
Open, Global, Mobile
Areas of Special Interest: 
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 1
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 4

This presentation is an account of a backwards-design approach used to develop a MOOC for K-12 teacher professional learning.

Extended Abstract

Distance learning at Kennesaw State University has grown steadily. The university currently offers more than 400 undergraduate and graduate online courses, more than 60 online programs of which 23 are graduate teacher education programs. In an attempt to meet the growing demand for more flexible, accessible educational opportunities, KSU decided to offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). In 2014, KSU launched the MOOC initiative with The K-12 Blended & Online Learning MOOC, a teacher professional learning course that would provide free professional learning to K-12 teachers. This paper outlines the five-step instructional design process used by the course developers as well as the success measures of two MOOC sessions.
The five-step design process is as follows:
1. Set overarching goals and success measures
2. Write instructional objectives
3. Design assessments
4. Plan differentiation strategies
5. Select or develop instructional content
Overarching Goals
KSU administrators and faculty had distinctly different, yet complementary, purposes for pursuing engagement through a MOOC platform. University administrators set two goals. The first goal was to promote centers of excellence at the university to broaden awareness of the university brand; while, the second goal was to recruit students into the expanding online degree programs.The Instructional Technology Department was selected as the first center of excellent to offer a MOOC. Since K-12 school districts in the state had suffered extreme cuts to teacher professional development, teachers were left with the responsibility of funding their own professional learning; addressing the need for free professional learning was the goal motivating the faculty developers. These three purposes led the university MOOC team to define measures of success that aligned to all three goals prior to designing the content. Success measures aligned to these goals included positive university brand awareness, resulting student enrollments, and teacher professional learning credits granted.
Instructional Objectives
With clearly articulated goals and stated measures of success, the design team was prepared to begin designing the course. Beginning with the instructional objectives the design team was challenged to help learners not only become familiar with the knowledge of K-12 online learning, but also to do the introductory work of an online teacher. These instructional objectives were developed to meet state teacher licensing agency requirements to serve as acceptable professional learning that teachers could use towards re-credentialing. For this reason, the design team needed to build a course that did more than just use auto-graded quizzes to assess learners as commonly seen in xMOOCs, or MOOCs that scale to large audiences. Learners in this course needed to perform new skills, reaching a higher level of learning, much like the idealized cMOOC (Rodriguez, 2013). MOOC participants were going to create and evaluate products including a syllabus, a unit plan, and a learning module for K-12 students. In writing the instructional objectives, the faculty design team realized they needed to ensure that the learning management system could support higher learning for a massive group of learners.
Assignment Design
With clear goals and instructional objectives requiring the highest levels of learning (Krathwohl, 2002), designers had to find a way to merge the high-levels of social learning from the cMOOC with the scalability of the xMOOC. Since the selected LMS supported peer-evaluation of active assessments, mass numbers of learner products could be reviewed for evidence of new skills. In designing how learners would show they had mastered the objectives, the design team considered the variety of learners who would perform peer-evaluations. Designers optimized reliability in peer scoring by reducing rubrics to a binary scoring checklist.
Differentiation Strategies
In addition to considering the instructional limitations of MOOCs, the design team prepared for a variety of learners including those with a range of knowledge on the subject of K-12 online learning, those with a range of commitments to completing the course, and those from a multitude of backgrounds. The course content had to support several types of differentiation to serve such a diverse and global group of learners; however, due to the massive number of learners the instructor would not be able to modify for individual learners as often done in a standard-enrollment classroom. Differentiation had to be supplied in the course design, but selected by the learner.
Instructional Content
Research about the effectiveness of instructional content in MOOCs was beginning to emerge. More specifically, videos for MOOCs suggested shorter video chunks of six minutes or less were more effective than longer video lectures (Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014). Lecture videos in the MOOC learning management system could have quiz questions embedded in the video to support lower levels of learning. However, the MOOC design team had to innovate a new way teach specific performances of a K-12 online teacher, such as designing a syllabus or developing a module. To teach these higher-level performances the design team combined lecture and screencast videos, templates, sample products, and checklists in a strategy they called tutorial-by-example.
Understanding the process and considerations one MOOC design team took in planning a course focused on K-12 teacher professional learning can serve other teacher professional development program developers by providing a process of planning. While MOOC excitement and hype has dwindled, the innovation is ripe for revision and repurposing. Teachers are a key audience in MOOCs, as Ho, et.al. (2015) found that nearly 40% of MOOC learners are teachers. Instead of eliminating universities or bringing impoverished learners social justice, MOOCs might serve a more humble, but critically important role. When well-designed, they hold potential to change K-12 teacher professional learning in meaningful ways. The potential of this medium to support K-12 teachers demands research to help navigate the revision of MOOCs to improve learner outcomes and provide guidance in best practice.
References (Due to word count limits will be provided at presentation.)

Lead Presenter

Dr. Lokey-Vega is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology and the Online Teaching Certificate/Endorsement program coordinator in the Department of Instructional Technology. Dr. Lokey-Vega earned her Ph.D. in Instructional Technology from Georgia State University. She received her M.S. in Elementary Education and her B.S. in Mathematics Education from the University of Tennessee. She was the lead faculty member and developer of Kennesaw State UniversityÕs first MOOC in K12 Blended and Online Teaching.