Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

MOOC experiences from a staff perspective (#316)

Amy D Wilson 1 , Maggie K Hartnett 1 , Mark E Brown 2
  1. Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  2. National Institute for Digital Learning, Dublin City University, Dublin , Ireland

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

This poster reports on the experiences of staff involved in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) joint initiative by Massey University and the Open Universities Australia (OUA) consortium using the Open2Study (O2S) platform developed by OUA. In 2013, three courses (known as subjects) were designed and developed on the O2S platform as a Massey pilot project. Drivers for the initiative included higher visibility for the university, potential for increased enrolments and an interest in developing innovative practice. The curriculum areas selected were based on specified criteria. The subjects/courses needed to a) align with the University’s perceived strengths; or b) encourage skills improvement in developing countries. To this end, courses were developed in the areas of agriculture, emergency management and indigenous (Māori) studies. Following the development phase, a research investigation was undertaken to explore the experiences of the staff involved. General and academic staff, involved in the Open2Study initiative, were invited to participate. The primary method of data collection was semi-structured interviews. Qualitative data from the interviews were analysed for emerging themes. The findings highlight several benefits and challenges. The most salient benefit was the transferability of skills academic staff gained throughout the process. These skills included a growing awareness of the MOOC development process, copyright issues associated with sourcing images/multimedia and preparation of easily formatted content for visual resource creation. The main challenge was the complexity of the development process. This was exacerbated by the differing expectations of academic staff and the O2S technical experts of the pedagogical structure of short duration courses and how resources should be formatted. Lessons learned through the highly structured O2S development process developed staff resilience to cope with new technologies and pedagogical practices and provide deeper understanding of the skills required to navigate the complexity and uncertainty of new online learning approaches.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

MOOCs are still not considered a mainstream approach to learning, with only a small percentage of universities offering MOOCs. Universities who have ventured into the MOOC sphere have exploited new technologies to expand their ability to offer courses online.  The staff experiences and the courses developed here provide insights not only for the University but the wider tertiary sector to better understand what ‘learning for life and work in a complex world” means. The poster also addresses the two conference sub-themes of ‘exploiting emerging technologies to enable employability’ and ‘navigating uncertainty and complexity’. The course development process was a complex one, but academic staff gained skills that could easily be transferred into other online courses and programmes, enhancing their capability and employability within the organisation. The learning that occurred in dealing with the intricacies of the development process increased their ability to cope with challenging situations.