Creating and Delivering a Writing MOOC

Chris Friend’s (2013) "Will MOOCs Work for Writing?" examined the tensions that exist between face-to-face and MOOC-centered delivery methods for writing instruction. Likening the “complex, variable, and fluid task” of writing to "herding cats" (para. 1), Friend offered an alternative point of view. In his words, MOOCs "will enhance, not replace, classroom learning. We cannot teach all students every intricacy of writing—for their future courses, their careers, and their civic engagement—using a MOOC format, but we can use MOOC strategies to improve our existing in-class teaching efforts" (para. 5). Exploring the level to which design and creation of MOOC materials have influenced the experiences of these panelists adds depth to the discussion of how writing courses may function in this format.

What design issues can impact the creation and delivery of a writing MOOC?


Pat JamesPat James: The other thing was that there was no restriction on this. There was no curriculum committee influence on this. This was not a course that was going to be offered for credit; we knew it was more of a resource for people, so we didn't have to go through the curriculum process. And not having to go through the curriculum process was probably one of the more important things that happened in this design. Our faculty . . . had a real goal, a real specific goal, and they were just looking at "What do students need?" Not "Fill in a three-unit or four-unit box." When you have to fill a box, a unit structure, you're thinking, "Okay, I gotta have enough stuff to make it this many hours to have this much work. I'm going to make sure that my objectives fit the four-units box." It wasn't about that. It was "What do they need? How long does it take? What's the best way to get them to actually learn what we want them to learn?" That was very freeing for the instructors. They felt like they had a lot of freedom in being able to design the class they way they wanted, and they just jumped into it with a lot of enthusiasm as a result. That was a big piece.

[For] the actual design of the course . . . I looked through a lot of Coursera courses. They gave me access to their courses, so I could look at them to find the design that we could use and also to get an idea how the class would work. I only found a couple that I really liked. Most of the courses were video/lecture based, and really that's how it started, right? Let's put the lectures from the best professors online, and put those out there to the world. That's how this idea at Coursera, anyway, got started. And so the courses were all video/lecture. You went to the video lectures, you look at the lecture, then you take a test or did a discussion or something else and then that was it. That's not how we teach online in California in the community colleges. There has to be contact with the instructor, that's by law for Distance Ed . . . . Interaction with the instructor is a federal requirement, and I didn't see that in those courses, not much, and I completely understand when you have 50,000 people in the class. How are you going to interact with them?