MOOC-tip-plication: Application of a tip from a MOOC for Global Staff

Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Membership & Communications

WiFi Cow gives a MOOC Tip From the 2012 Cow Parade in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, NC, USA

I recently took part in my second Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC).  And, while a few of my candid colleagues and family may have thought it too basic for me… I got a lot out of “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrationality,” offered by Duke University Professor Dan Ariely. This Coursera MOOC put a lot of the behavioral economic theory it covered into practice, and I’ll share couple of  relevant tips here.

Among the approaches with potential for those of us managing organizational learning programs, corporate universities or LMSes can use is the introductory quiz. As part of the initial set-up (after registering for the free course), there was an introductory “quiz” or survey. The teaching team noted that in all likelihood, the cohort of learners would be similar to most MOOC participants and not complete the full course (see “Not Staying the Course” about low completion rates). They asked participants a few questions to help learners take responsibility for our own learning and to encourage us to be realistic:

“What do you plan to for this course (check all that apply):

[ ] Watch/attend the lectures

[ ] Engage in discussion board forums

[ ] Read all the reading material

[ ] Take quizzes on lectures/reading

[ ] Peruse extra material

[ ]  Complete the written assignment(s)

[ ]  Grade/comment on other people’s submissions

[ ] Take the final learning assessment (exam/certification)

[ ] Other_________

This list gave learners an idea of what was coming and a grounding in what it would take to earn a statement of completion. And the next question prepared us for how to be successful learners, even if we didn’t complete the course. I liken this to how to continue to keep myself on track toward a new year’s resolution when I miss an early milestone.

“If you don’t have time to do all the things you checked above, which item will you sacrifice first?

  • Watch/attend the lectures
  • Engage in discussion board forums
  • Read all the reading material
  • Take quizzes on lectures/reading
  • Peruse extra material
  • Complete the written assignment(s)
  • Grade/comment on other people’s submissions
  • Take the final learning assessment (exam/certification)
  • Other

As this was a course on behavioral theory, the instructors applied some of their own content and offered some ideas that could help learners who chose to be helped!

What best describes how you plan to encourage your own participation in this course
  do not plan to do plan to do already done not sure
Block of time for this course in your calendar
Tell others you are taking the course
Take the course with others (ie study groups)
Reward yourself for staying on track
Set consequences for not staying on track

This chart contains many tips for adult learners, particularly those of us who are not professional learners to put in place. Offering your learners something as simple as this type of chart may help them build the supportive scaffolding they need to complete the course work.

More importantly, what does the learner hope to achieve, accomplish or apply (do better/differently as a result of the learning)?  One very simple approach is used by LINGOs member organization Islamic Relief Worldwide.    The Islamic Relief Learning & Development team provides their learners with a very simple Learning Log through which staff identify what they did, why, what they learned from it and how they will apply it.

Defining the what and the why at the start of a formal learning venture can support the application of learning.  At LINGOs, we believe that development professionals with better skills deliver better quality services and produce better results for beneficiary communities. We continue to explore various approaches to support the application of learning.


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