MOOCs reloaded: Redesigning two MOOCs in EMMA

Cool techie image of Neo from the movie The Matrix

Image courtesy of Sudhee | Flickr


In October 2014 I was part of a team at the University of Leicester working in the EMMA (European Multiple MOOC Aggregator) platform. We ran a pilot of two massive open online courses (MOOCs): Learning Design and Technology-Enhanced Learning. We had over 60 participants in each of these courses. It was an interesting experience that has enabled us to improve our MOOCs.


We are currently getting ready for the rerun in May 2015. I am in charge of the redesign of the MOOCs. Here is what we have been working on:

1. Listening to the evidence: During the first pilot of the MOOCs, we asked participants to use blogs as a way of documenting their learning. We noticed that most of them did not use this tool. We have modified our activities to make the use of blogs optional.

2. Obtaining participants’ feedback: We have added optional entry and exit surveys that will let us know more about participants’ background, motivation and expectations, and their perceptions on the MOOCs. Answers will be useful for research-based future improvements.

3: Facilitating time-management: Many learners struggle to balance their life and work commitments with their online studies. We are trying to help by adapting units in our MOOCs’ lessons so they can be completed in approximately 30 minutes each.

4. Increasing accessibility: We have increased the variety of formats in which we present the information, trying to provide a suitable option for learners with different needs. For example, we have included text alternatives to describe relevant images.

5. Clarifying attribution: We try to give credit to the people who created the open educational resources (OERs) we are using. We have clarified attributions where required. Images without an attribution belong to the public domain.

6. Making materials learner-friendly: MOOCs may attract participants with all sorts of educational backgrounds and skills. Finding the ‘right level’ is a challenge. What some participants might consider ‘too easy’ might be ‘too hard’ for others. We are trying to find the right balance. We have added new examples and explanations. We are aiming to make the courses easier to follow and more learner-friendly than before.

7. Fostering learners’ engagement: Most of the activities in our MOOCs follow the e-tivity framework described by Prof Gilly Salmon. This approach recommends the use of ‘sparks’, which are resources -such as images and videos- that generate interest in the topic of the activity. We have changed some of our sparks to make them more interesting, engaging and relevant than before.

8. Improving communication with learners: For the rerun in May we will increase  our participation in communication channels outside EMMA, such as Twitter. We have selected useful resources and questions that foster reflection, which we will share with participants throughout the delivery of the MOOCs.

I look forward to the following stages of these MOOCs!