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22st Annual OLC International Conference
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Teaching a MOOC: Tales From the Front Lines of Massive, Open, Online, Courses

Patrick R. Lowenthal (Boise State University, USA)
Additional Authors
Ross Perkins (Boise State University, USA)
Tony Hetrick (Boise State University, USA)
Crystal Hofegartner (Kaplan University & Boise State University, USA)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 2:30pm
Open, Global, Mobile
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 1
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 8

Have you ever wondered what it's like to teach a MOOC? Come learn more from those who have taught massive open online courses.

Extended Abstract

During 2012 and 2013, Massive, Open, Online Courses (MOOCs) were one of the most talked about trends in higher education (e.g. EDUCAUSE, 2012; Markoff, 2011, Rushkoff, 2013). In fact, 2012 was described as the year of the MOOC (Watters, 2012)! The discourse on MOOCs, however, lacks depth. First, MOOCs are not "new"; the term was coined in 2008 (McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, & Cormier, 2010). Since 2008, pioneers have continued to teach MOOCs (Siemens, 2013). Second, MOOCs are not all the same (Daniel, 2012; Kernohan, 2013). For example, MOOCs differ both in their degree of openness as well as their size. While MOOCs are idealized as being completely open, meaning that anyone can enroll and complete them, enrollments in MOOCs are sometimes capped, and often only offered during a specific time of year (Fain, 2013). Further, some MOOC providers charge learners to access and/or document completion of their learning. In terms of size, MOOCs can range from a few hundred students (e.g., Downs, 2011) to thousands of students (e.g., Markoff, 2011). Finally, the discourse on MOOCs has focused very little on the experiences of those teaching the MOOCs and how this experience differs from teaching other courses (Ross, Sinclair, Knox, Bayne, & Macleod, 2014)

While the hype around MOOCs has quieted some, the fascination persists. For instance, headlines, such as "Demystifying the MOOC" or "MOOC Your Way to Better Self-Development," continue to show that many still believe in the potential of MOOCs. Others, though, remain skeptical of the tendency to glorify MOOCs as disrupting higher education (Baggaley, 2013; van den Berg & Crawley, 2013). Critics question the low completion numbers, the lack of discourse and student-teacher interaction, and the lack of connection to an institution's strategic goals (Kim, 2012; Koller, Ng, Do, & Chen, 2013).

The discourse on MOOCs would be strengthened by more research (Liyanagunawardena, Adamsm & Williams, 2013). The research that has been completed so far typically focuses on completion rates (Anderson, Huttenlocher, Kleinberg, & Leskovec, 2014), student learning (Breslow, Pritchard, DeBoer, Stump, Ho, & Seaton, 2013), or student engagement (Anderson, et al. 2014). If MOOCs are to become a legitimate answer to some of the world's educational problems, input from faculty who teach these courses is necessary. Therefore, we set forth to address this gap by trying to capture the lived experiences of faculty who have taught a MOOC.

We began by identifying faculty who have taught a MOOC for Coursera or EdX. Both companies list past courses on their websites. The names and available email addresses for each instructor were compiled. This resulted in 316 courses and 572 faculty. A short survey was created to collect initial data. The survey will be administered June 1st. The results will be used to then identify a subset of faculty to conduct semi-structured follow-up interviews. We are specifically interested in exploring the following:
Why do people teach MOOCs?
Would they teach a MOOC again?
What do people expect to gain from teaching a MOOC?
What have people learned from teaching a MOOC?
Final interviews will be coded independently by two researchers using constant comparative analysis. Constant Comparative Analysis is useful when trying understand a phenomenon like teaching online (Lowenthal & Leech, 2009).

Substantiated conclusions
At the time of submitting this proposal, we are in the early stages of our inquiry. While our inquiry is incomplete and we recognize the importance of submitting proposals for completed research, we believe that the relevance and value of this research warrants consideration.
[Note: We plan to complete our study by August 2015.]

Anderson, A., Huttenlocher, D., Kleinberg, J., & Leskovec, J. (2014). Engaging with massive online courses. In Proceedings of the 23rd international conference on World Wide Web (pp. 687-698). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee.

Baggaley, J. (2013). MOOC rampant. Distance Education, 34(3), 368-378.

Breslow, L., Pritchard, D. E., DeBoer, J., Stump, G. S., Ho, A. D., & Seaton, D. T. (2013). Studying learning in the worldwide classroom: Research into edX's first MOOC. Research & Practice in Assessment, 8(1), 13-25.

Downs, S. (2011). 'Connectivism' and connective knowledge. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

EDUCAUSE. (2012). What campus leaders need to know about MOOCs. Retrieved from

Fain, P. (2013, January). As California goes? Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Kolowich, S. (2013). American council on higher education recommends 5 MOOCs for credit.
The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/

Liyanagunawardena, T. R., Adams, A. A., & Williams, S. A. (2013). MOOCs: A Systematic Study of the Published Literature 2008-2012. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14, 3, 202-227.

Lowenthal, P. R., & Leech, N. (2009). Mixed research and online learning: Strategies for improvement. In T. T. Kidd (Ed.), Online education and adult learning: New frontiers for teaching practices (pp. 202-211). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Markoff, J. (2011, August). Virtual and artificial, but 58,000 want course. New York Times.

McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G., & Cormier, D. (2010). The MOOC model for digital practice. Retrieved from http://www.davecormier.com/edblog/wp-content/uploads/MOOC_Final.pdf

Ross, J., Sinclair, C., Knox, J., Bayne, S., & Macleod, H. (2014). Teacher experiences and academic identity: The missing components of MOOC pedagogy. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 56-68.

Rushkoff, D. (2013, January) Online courses need human element to educate. CNN. Retrieved
from http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/15/opinion/rushkoff-moocs/index.html?iref=all...

Siemens, G. (2013). Massive Open Online Courses: Innovation in education. En: Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice.(McGreal, R., Kinuthia, W. & Marshall, S., eds..)(1st Ed., P. 268). Athabasca: UNESCO.

van den Berg, D. J., & Crawley, E. (2013, October). Why MOOCs are transforming the face of
higher education. The Huffington Post. Retrived from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/

Watters, A. (2012). Top ed-tech trends of 2012: MOOCs. Inside Higher Ed.

Lead Presenter

Patrick Lowenthal is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology at Boise State University. Prior to joining the faculty full-time, Patrick spent a couple of years as an instructional designer at Boise State. Before moving to Idaho, Patrick worked as an Academic Technology Coordinator at CU Online at the University of Colorado Denver where he completed his doctorate. Before that he held a faculty position at Regis University for a few years.
Patrick's research generally focuses on academic discourse. He is primarily interested in
computer-mediated discourse and specifically how faculty and students establish presence and community in online learning environments. In addition, he often writes about issues and problems of practice related to post-secondary education.
Learn more about Patrick at http://www.patricklowenthal.com