Centralized Course, Distributed Sections (mOOC Clarification)

I’m finally plugging away at a paper  have due for journal submission in a few weeks. It describes the mixable Online Open Course. And while typing it, I realized there is one thing I have never made quite clear here about how it works.

Basically, it’s a centralized MOOC that allows different institutions and informal groups to sign up and run sections. These sections aren’t an abstract entity — they are literally section permissions in the LMS, complete with rights to give announcements to your section, alter submission dates (maybe), and most importantly view your students progress and grades.

The way this would work is this: I work at Keene State. With a faculty member, I put together a course for online delivery, ala xMOOC. We design the course to require work equivalent to about 2.5 Carnegie credit-hours.

A professor at Ball State is teaching a Psychology class that semester. She sees this course is on offer via Canvas.net, and signs up to run a section. Once in, she enrolls her students. Her students get all the mainline communication, activities, and presentations of the course, complete with our Keene State MOOC instructor leading the class. But she also gets the section-based tools I mentioned above — access to student grades, customized announcements and the like. And if someone from Fort Hays or Skyview High School or a university in China or the local bar wants to run a section, they can run one too.

We call these sections subcohorts, and the advantage of many of them is that they may map onto either physical colocation or other existing attributes that promote strong social connection (say, a group connected by blogging). The subcohorts interact with other subcohorts, and form multiple variations of the course, building in a community-engaged project in one case or blogging the hell out of the experience in another. A Community of Practice (CoP) develops around the facilitators of the separate sections, and the individuals in the cohorts share what is essentially a Community of Inquiry (CoI).

I think this is an incredibly powerful idea, and yet I find no one really talking about it in xMOOC-space. The idea that people are infatuated with is to throw everyone into the one massive cohort. Why? Why not this instead? What am I missing?

6 thoughts on “Centralized Course, Distributed Sections (mOOC Clarification)

  1. Certainly ds106 is a related phenomenon (I’ve cited it as an influence with almost autistic-like fervor in previous posts — although I should also mention I’ve been giving presentations on this idea for several years now). But the ds106 mentality has not penetrated xMOOCdom. Why?

    Actually, thinking about it last night I realized what I was missing — this is of course the future business model of Coursera et al. The direct-to-consumer market is messy. Much better to be a B2B entity, and supply services to the educational sector. In other words, this is coming, phase 2 — you’re just going to get charged an arm and a leg for it.

  2. I keep assuming this is the direction MOOCs will go in: that smaller institutions who don’t have the brand gravitas to be eligible for (or benefit from, let’s be honest) a Coursera partnership will realize they can do MOOC-like work on their own, possibly at a more contained scale but also hopefully far more networked and COI-focused than the majority of the xMOOC offerings. My own school is moving in that direction, so I am building on your ideas and many from the cMOOC historical archives to think about design…

  3. Bonnie — that’s great news that you are exploring this sort of thing over there. Keep me updated — I’m sure there’s a lot of pockets of this.

    One of the things I’ve thought about is how some of these professional organizations for certain types of schools (in the States, things like COPLAC for liberal arts schools, AASCU for state colleges, AAU for research universities, etc) might be a nice locus for the development of these. They are definitely time-consuming to build and maintain, so there would need to be multi-institutional cooperation to make it really work economically. If the grant funders wanted to step in and help (heck, I’d take it) a nice route would be to fund these organizations to create and use such things….[if anyone is listening, you can find my email on the web ;)]

  4. Mike and Bon

    We explored a SOOC option with shared content and facilitation at https://www.openlearning.com/courses/SPRT224982 (we thought we would be modest and think of ourselves as a small course (600 enrollments from 92 countries)).

    As a result of this experience we are exploring edgeless courses that connect disparate institutions and pursue support for personal learning environments. We think these can have open badges as well as formal credit.

    We have in mind the ds106 approach too, as fervent admirers of Alan’s views and practice.

    Best wishes


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