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To MOOC or Not to MOOC? That Is Just One of the Questions!

Curriculum Planning and Development Leadership and Management

To MOOC or Not to MOOC? That Is Just One of the Questions!

Both large and small educational institutions feel compelled to respond to internal and external stakeholders about MOOC development, and for those institutions unable to partner with an organization such as Coursera or edX, there can be a number of considerations. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself as you consider MOOC development for your institution.

#1: Why are we interested in doing a MOOC?

“Everyone is doing it” is a difficult sell to cash-starved department heads, so looking beyond jumping on the bandwagon will be required if you hope to convince stakeholders on your campus that a MOOC will be a good investment. If your institution can’t afford to give away free education, then you need to consider what reward you hope to gain.

#2: Do we have a special niche in the market?

If you don’t have something new and different to bring to the MOOC table, it may be difficult to draw attention to your course. Use a MOOC aggregator such as Class Central (www.class-central.com/) or MOOC List (www.mooc-list.com/) to do a search of the topic you want to develop. If the topic you want to develop is already in ample supply, consider a subtopic that might help you develop more of a niche following, or consider a different subject altogether.

#3: Can we leverage partnerships for content development and marketing?

Ask yourself: Does our current learning management system vendor have a MOOC platform we can use? Some vendors have products specifically designed for hosting MOOCs. Or, consider exploring other free options from edX, Udemy, Moodle, or CourseSites.

Once the hosting decision is made, it’s time to consider options for content development. Depending on the subject area, you may find that professional organizations or vendors you are currently working with can dramatically reduce your development time and costs by providing either content expertise or ready-made content that you can place into the course.

#4: Should we incentivize the MOOC?

Participants will often look for some type of takeaway from their MOOC experience, even if it is simply some sort of proof of participation. Should you award a completion certificate or badges? If so, what criteria will be used to measure student success?

#5: How will we measure success?

Knowing what the criteria for success will be before you start development will make the process much easier. Are you looking to generate marketing leads for your institution’s programs from MOOC enrollments? Are you targeting new enrollments in your institution’s programs? Are you interested in tapping new markets or expanding brand recognition? How will you assess the MOOC to get feedback from the participants regarding their experience?

In the end, deciding to offer a MOOC requires a good deal of consideration; however, with some well-chosen questions, you will be able to determine whether or not a MOOC is right for you.

Donna Gardner Liljegren, EdD, is director of the Elmhurst College Online Center and manager of instructional support for the School for Professional Studies of Elmhurst College. A version of this article appeared in Online Classroom.

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