• Academic Technology

The Evolution of MOOCs: Making “Massive and Open” Feel “Small and Private”

In a recent survey of Panopto higher education customers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, nearly 20% of those surveyed said they were using Panopto for their Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in some way.  

While Massive Online Open Courses themselves have received a lot of attention in the higher education sector, we have seen some interesting developments in how institutions are enhancing their MOOC offering or taking the MOOC concept and adapting it to suit their own teaching aims.

Using Panopto to enhance MOOC student engagement

While MOOCs offer many advantages to institutions that want to broaden the scope of their offering and connect with a range of learners who may not typically access higher education content, some institutions are concerned that the learning experience on a MOOC has the potential to feel disconnected. One of Panopto’s customers in the UK, however, came up with a very interesting way of using video to enhance engagement with their MOOC students.

The University of Derby has been running highly-acclaimed MOOCs for a number of years – including the Innovating in Operations Management MOOC. In this course, as with all similar purely online content, students were both spatially and temporally distanced from each other and the course instructors. Of course, there were mechanisms for peer to peer interaction, but those happened asynchronously, usually via associated forums or blogs. Students had the option to ask questions or raise discussion points, but they didn’t always get a response in a timely way.

The tutors running the MOOC – Dr Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes and Dr Tony Anosike – decided that to ensure these questions and discussions were addressed, and to enhance engagement and offer students a sense of personal interaction, they would create a “weekly wind-up” video recording that answered several of the threads being discussed on the various weekly topics. They used a studio on-campus to create in-depth 30 – 40 minute response videos, allowing themselves to time to address a whole range of queries raised by the students so that no student felt their question had gone unanswered.

Dr Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes described the initiative as follows:

“The experience that we had with Panopto was very positive as it allowed us to communicate with over 2,200 students all over the world […] in a more dynamic way. With Panopto, Dr Tony Anosike and I had the opportunity to elaborate on specific topics that we considered important for the particular units that we were reviewing every week. Also, we could provide additional examples requested by the students. For instance, the MOOC content was very oriented towards the manufacturing sector, with plenty of examples regarding this industry. However, the students asked us to provide examples of the application of the Operations Management theory in other industries. We used the Panopto recordings to cover the other requested sectors. The comments from the students were extremely positive – they were eagerly waiting for the Panopto recordings to be released every Friday.”

One of the key aims of this was for MOOC students to feel more engaged in the course material. Some of the student feedback on the recorded weekly wind-up sessions was as follows:

“I guess excellent is the word. Especially the weekly wind-up.”

“It has been well thought-out and the wind-up each week is also very informative and engaging.”

“The weekly wind-up video helped a lot in summarising the course.”

“[…] the weekly wind up videos deepen the understanding of the learners.”

By using Panopto in this way, the University of Derby was still able to serve a larger audience while also injecting a more personal feel to the course.

Learning from “Massive” and “Open” to Better Facilitate “Small” and “Private” Online Courses

While many institutions are keen to retain the ‘massive’ and ‘open’ elements of the MOOC acronym in their offerings, others have moved away from this to create what might instead be thought of as small private online course (SPOCs) instead.

SPOCs can be informally defined as “a version of a MOOC used locally with on-campus students.” More specifically, SPOCs feature two educational approaches already in widespread adoption:

    1. Distance Learning
    2. Flipped Classrooms

Much like MOOCs, both distance learning and flipped classrooms leverage recorded video lectures and “micro-lectures” delivered online. In both situations, the material can be absorbed at whatever pace is right for an individual student.

Distance Learning

Non-traditional students have been learning at distance for decades, dating all the way back to correspondence courses. Over time, new and better ways of delivering information, invigilating assignments, and engendering collaboration between classmates have sprung up.

Today, lecturers at universities, colleges, and vocational institutes are increasingly offering their courses online. With class sizes that are similar to those in a campus classroom, students actually have the ability — and often the expectation — to engage with their instructors one-on-one. Since professors are teaching 10, 15 or 20 students at a time, instead of 1000, 15,000 or even 20,000 for large online cohorts, qualitative assignments like essays, presentations, and projects can once again be an important part of online education.

For universities and colleges, SPOCs can offer a new source of revenue and a way to expand their reach as an institution. Since accredited universities have a large hand in administering SPOCs, students can gain accredited academic experience that actually counts toward their degree or certificate program. This was the case for Colorado State University in the US where, within five years of opening an online-only program in 2008, its “global campus” was enrolling 9,000 students each year and operating on a budget of more than $50 million dollars.

Flipped Classrooms

Each year, newer forms of online interaction bring people closer together, even when they are separated by continents, oceans, and commitments to their time.

But what about for the millions studying on campuses today? How can online education help them? The flipped classroom encompasses the best of both in-class and online learning, together in one model.

The technologies, processes, and faculty familiarity with online education delivery have all equipped today’s educators to augment their classroom teaching in ways that increase student comprehension, engagement, and retention. Faculty have taken note and have already begun implementing new ways to deliver lectures, giving them new freedom and opportunity to enhance classroom instruction.

Instructors can record physical demonstrations up-close with multiple camera angles, walk through a complicated formula or mathematical expression step-by-step, or share a lecture against the backdrop of a museum from the other side of the world.

Before students in the flipped classroom even step foot in the classroom, they are armed with the foundational information they need to engage critically with the subject matter.

Freed from the need to recite basic information, the role of the instructor changes in the flipped classroom. They find themselves able to generate deeper and more meaningful connections based on two-way dialogue. Here, the teacher is a guide who works collaboratively with their students to facilitate learning.

The SPOC: A new acronym, not a new approach to learning

By making content accessible to larger audiences around the world, MOOCs allowed instructors to share their knowledge with students that might not otherwise have been able to access it. MOOCs introduced a new generation of learners to the types of video-assisted teaching that were already occurring inside traditional institutions.

Through years of implementation of video in the classroom and virtual communication through learning management systems, educators have continued to find new and better ways to build closer relationships with their students. The term SPOC takes advantage of the buzz created by MOOCs to expand the impact of a range of innovations educators have made to enhance the learning experience.

The “Rise of SPOCs” isn’t a revolution, but it does offer even greater evidence of the impact video-assisted teaching is making for students today, whether they study in the classroom or in the cloud.

Panopto is the fastest-growing video learning technology in classrooms, both physical and virtual. Interested to learn more about how you can use Panopto to give faculty powerful, secure and stable video recording and sharing? Contact a member of our team to sign up for a free trial.