Making MOOCs

Site: Flinders Learning Online
Topic: FLO Staff Support
Book: Making MOOCs
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Saturday, 1 April 2023, 5:38 PM


What does it take to make a MOOC? Explore the Grow-your-own MOOC kit here

Grow-your-own MOOC kit

The Grow-your-own MOOC kit steps you through the 12 elements of a MOOC and prompts you to consider questions and options to consider when you are thinking about developing a MOOC. A suggested pathway, based on experience at Flinders, is shown as highlighted options in the tables, but don't be limited to these – your choices will be based on your needs and capacities. Combined, they make up your bespoke 12-element MOOC model.

You can download or print the kit from the Administration block to the left of the screen, or view the 12 elements online in the following pages. See the table of contents to the left of the screen to jump to a particular page. 

Strategic positioning and potential

Key questions:  What is your vision/story? Who is your primary intended community/audience? What the purpose(s) of your open course? Why are you thinking about a MOOC?  Why is open education suitable for your subject matter?  Where does your idea fit with the strategic objectives of your organisation?



Supporting informal communities in formal education

Online study groups, social & welfare issues for students, support, discipline, research & special interest groups, communities, professional development skills, within formal education.


Open research tool

Provides rich ground for research into issues that are local but globally connected.
Asking questions, big conversations
Enables massive dissemination of research findings and continues the conversation.
Consider the ethics of how you collect data. Make participants aware of how survey data will be used.
Consider publishing in open journals.


Community engagement strategy

Areas where disciplines collide (e.g. art & science), non-traditional multi-disciplinary adventures, issues with immediate relevance to the local and global community (e.g health, environment, urban planning). Activism.


Making a difference

Taking an approach that asks participants to “do something” to connect to people and causes – community activism at a local level, and awareness of how this links to global issues.
Citizens, digital citizens


Pathways to and from educational institutions

Provides a “taster” of a subject domain, links to careers, research, communicate real-world-relevance, connect  academic to open disciplines. Open education, DIY education


Resource building

Could be a space to openly collaborate to create a new resources. e.g. manual, planning, documentation.


Partnership space

Provides a strategic shared space for attracting and partnering with industry, organisations and individuals around matters of common interest
Provides an accessible shared space for universities to work cross-institutionally around research, projects and teaching and learning activities

Development resources and roles

Key questions:  What resources are already available to you? Who will be valuable in supporting your open course?  What role will they play in development? Do you need external resources? How much will it all cost?

Building a team for your MOOC can be a critical factor in keeping timelines achievable. Use existing support in formal and informal ways, and be clear about the scope of involvement. 

Even if you design your MOOC to be self-directed and facilitation-free, there will still be administration and support tasks that require ongoing involvement to maintain the energy and functionality of your online space. Consider who needs to be involved in an ongoing way to sustain the site. 


Department support

If your project aligns with departmental priorities there may be funding or in-kind support available. Include supervisors, managers, directors in your support framework.


Learning design and teaching support teams

Learning, or educational design advice on structuring online learning activities, exploring pedagogies and approaches,  web tools, research and evaluation.


Technical support

Support for setting up website, social media accounts, , videos, embedding media, backing up, troubleshooting participant problems and also as a ‘site admin’.


In-kind library assistance

Subject liaison librarians can support finding of sharable open access resources, including open access journals and copyright advice.


Subject experts

2 or 3 academic subject experts, which could include external industry experts who are comfortable or experienced with the implications of teaching in an open space. Guest lecturers.


Grant funding

A research proposal and/or grant funding wrapped around MOOC development  may be an effective way to justify and resource academic and professional staff time.


Project approach

Provides the structure to pull in resources as needed, establishes a cohesive group energy in moving forward, opportunity to formalise and recognise all contributors.

Developmental intentions / curriculum

Key questions:  Who will inform and influence the approach? How will you scope and define your coverage?  

The open course space can be used to explore ideas you might have for creative and emerging pedagogical approaches to online learning that might be difficult to experiment with in your formal teaching  or professional area (e.g. participant-led facilitation, cross-discipline subject explorations, role-play, game-based approach, authentic).  Some of the lessons learnt in the open space can then be absorbed back into your formal online and offline teaching.

Some MOOCs are self-directed, others are about building an online community.  They can also interact and influence offline communities and individuals. 


Curriculum is defined and clear learning objectives and criteria for success

Fits with formal education approach, can work for a MOOC but consider the extreme diversity of your audience (global, various backgrounds, beginners & experts) to ensure some flexibility.


Interest area is broadly conceived

Have a set of broad objectives, encourage participants to self-set goals. Good for introductory levels to subjects.


Participants identify area of interest

Before writing objectives of course, use survey instruments to collect feedback about what potential participants want to achieve/learn.

Designing activities

Key questions:  What will you ask participants to do? How will you ask them to do it? 

One of the major traps in developing online content, is often trying to create web and media based resources, to cover a diverse subject area.  It can chew up a bulk of the timeline. From the outset, focus on what your participants can do as activities (online or offline) to bring relevant shareable explanation and artefacts into the course, as part of their participation.

This activity-led approach takes advantage of the MOOC as a unique cohort of global participants that will never be together in the same space at the same time again.  You can also explore connections between offline and online activities by structuring activities that ask participants to connect with their local community and share it with the online global community.

When designing activities for a MOOC you have the freedom of being able to set an activity without needing to provide any physical resources to do so (technology, room, equipment). You can provide some guidance and scaffolding to suggest ways of approach, and encourage peers to share ideas but having activities that allow flexibility in approach means that you will be more likely to appeal to your diverse community of participants. 


Participant/peer driven

Letting participants choose their level of engagement, what they do and how they do it.


Responsive design

Reacting on-the-fly to participant feedback and input to tailor the activities to the unique cohort.


Problem-based / challenges

Presenting challenges, invoking any level of competition, encouraging group work, game-based activities.


Discovery model

Exploring as cohorts, beginning with questions instead of presenting materials/information.


Scaffolded activity

Having points of support, tips, suggestions, exemplars, open discussion about ideas for completing activities.


Prescribed activity

Defining each activity clearly, with specific instructions

Platform selection

Key questions:  Which platforms are available? How are they accessed? 

Platform choice can seem to have a large impact what kind of activities you might use, and it can be tempting to jump straight to platform based on features, before considering your activities.  Some options have flexibility in terms of what you can plug-in and some can only be used in a formal partnership.


Distributed open platform

A freely available online space that has a collection tools and usually a directory of sites that can be used. Third party tools (e.g. social media, image hosting, document hosting) are partly or fully integrated, or can be linked embedded. Sometimes has open source code, and could be self-hosted, but often provides free useable hosting of basic pages, with media, documents, images hosted in third party applications. Evaluation and data needs to be gathered by own efforts, technical support may be available but informal.


Fully distributed (platformless)

Uses entirely separate freely available tools, that you can link together to create a bespoke online space to suit your requirements.  This has the advantage of great flexibility, but can be difficult if participants are required to register/sign up onto various tools. Set up could be time consuming and ongoing support, including technical needs to be factored into the resources needed.


Hosted complete platform

Aimed at having everything in one place, this is most like a learning management system used in formal online education. Can still link/embed some third party tools. May not be completely open or have full control and may require formal agreements to access. Advantage is access to data in terms of participant activity, ease of supporting participants to do things as all using the same toolset.


Commercial partnership

Some MOOC platforms can be accessed through a formal partnership. These have the same attributes as a hosted complete platform, but the partnership may include an element of development and technical support as well as evaluation. You may require funding to be involved if costs fall outside available budget.

Linking to and publishing resources

Key questions:  How do you find and share resources for your open course? How do you meet the needs of a geographically diverse and global audience? 

You may have a number of content experts within your team, but one of the challenges of developing a MOOC is that copyright and intellectual property can mean that existing materials cannot easily be used in an open space. Looking for existing open educational resources is an important first step, before considering whether to invest time in creating new resources.  Resources need to appeal to a large globally diverse audience which is daunting if you need to create this. Exploring participant-led resource finding and making and sharing online also helps participants expand their own web literacy. 


Linking to resource collections

Look for repositories, collections of open resources in your subject area.


Linking to specific resources

Direct links to key singular resources on external platforms that you are familiar with in your subject area that form the basis of participant activity or facilitator input. Consider how broadly relevant these are to a global audience.


Embedded resources

Making resources available as part of your central core of content, downloadable collections.


Peer-created materials

Use your MOOC as a publishing space, collecting participant-create resources or linking to where these resources have been created.


Self-produced resources

These could be documents, video, audio, art, games, executable programs, apps that are specifically produced for the MOOC. Some of these formats are time consuming to 


Key questions:  How will you promote the course to attract participants? 

Informal and social media methods are the most accessible ways to promote your MOOC, but if you are aiming for a cohort as large as possible, expanding to more formal promotional activity may be beneficial.


Informal promotions

Word of mouth, personal & professional conversations,  colleagues in other geographical areas


Use of social media

Promoting in existing online communities in related subject areas, asking influential individuals to share through social networks, use of hashtags, keywords.


Promotions via platform host

Many open MOOC platforms have a site directory, and there are independent lists of MOOCs, many of which are free to list with.


Industry and public marketing

Industry and government intranets and mailing lists, newsletters, community publications and noticeboards - these are often free.


Formal marketing support

Newspapers, radio, formal support from marketing team, use of paid online promotional tools, advertisements.

Enrolment and facilitation

Key questions:  How will you enable participants to be involved in the course? How will you interact with your participants?

MOOC enrolment is usually a simple sign-up form, requesting a username and password only, which can mean that you have a large participant base without knowing much about who they are, or what they expect from their online course experience. You can use pre-course surveys and ice-breaker activities to try to gain and insight into the cohort.


Flexible participation  

Open-enrolment and no expectation that participants will engage with every activity or resource.  Participants can choose whether to work to schedule or make their own schedule. Encouraged to self-direct how they interact.


Live facilitation

Scheduled times when facilitator is available for synchronous sessions.



Participants decide on pace of progression, ability to self-check own progression.


Structured cohorts  and groups

Enrolment period specified and closed off. Structure built into MOOC to support group-based cohorts for specific activities or time-based progression. Can be difficult to administrate groups on open platforms due to large number of participants.


Monitored discussions

Facilitation of asynchronous discussion forums by content experts and technical admin to address problems, encourage discussion and interject to steer questions and suggest resources.


Responsive facilitation

Facilitation based on gauging demand from the cohort, providing mechanism for community vote on level of facilitation, being available for asynchronous session


Participant-led partnerships and small groups

Could provide participant choice on forming partnerships and small groups to work on specific activities and give participants responsibility of self-managing group interactions with tools of their choice.

Participation support

Key questions:  How will you manage the expectations of a potentially large, globally diverse participant group?

Participants arrive at MOOCs with a range of experience levels. Some may have already taken MOOCs or online study and some may have never studied or used web tools. To manage this diversity, being very clear about the type of support, contact and level of facilitation they can expect to receive in the MOOC is very important.


Peer to peer support

The large participant numbers mean that encouraging peer support in discussion forums and social media can be a useful way of managing a large community. Actively promoting a self-supporting community provides participants with an opportunity to learn and connect with each other.  This can be a useful way to address technical support questions, by having the user community available to suggest help with these questions.


Common issues addressed (FAQs etc)

These can be anticipated while you are developing the course, but look around at other MOOC FAQs.  Consider having a dedicated help forum where questions can be posted and plan time to review the questions as your course progresses to constantly develop the FAQ


Contact point provided

With potentially large participant numbers you may want to carefully consider the mechanism for contact that you encourage. There can also be a large amount of discussion activity on a MOOC platform and a large amount of notification emails to manage, if you want to receive these. One strategy is to use a dedicated email account for use on the MOOC, so that all activity related to the MOOC can be managed there. This could be shared amongst your MOOC facilitation team.


Selected individual support

There may be individual participants who seek out individual support from facilitators, and clear instructions of whether this level of facilitation is available should be made clear in the MOOC information.

Completion options

Key questions:  What will you provide to participants as evidence of their participation or completion? 

MOOCs can experience a large number of sign-ups compared to actual participation and completion rates. Measures for success of a MOOC need to be considered more broadly than these traditional completion markers, as participants of an open course may have participated in a way that was useful for them, without completing a formal series of activities.


Authentic, real-world

Activities are encouraged to be shared  in real world situations, offline in communities, or by interacting with existing online communities.


Participant-driven outcomes

Participants are encouraged to set their own goals and outcomes as the initial part of signing up to the course. If these were shared in the site, it could be possible to map common themes and expectations and address these as the course progresses.


Self-serve certificates

There are third party certification, often free, portfolio and content aggregation tools that allow participants to collect evidence and self-certify their course participation.



Enable self-knowledge checking, could be participant-built


Peer-awarded badges

Portable open badges to symbolise meeting outcomes of course. Due to large participant numbers having peers able to reward a badge once they receive it, is a useful way to avoid being unable to facilitate badge awarding. Needs rubric/guide to assist participants to make judgement on quality if not just based on completion.


Platform-generated completions

Auto-generated based on completion and/or minimum score.


Authenticated completions

Usually where there is formal partnership for developing a MOOC on a platform as extensive as an learning management system, because this requires authenticating the identity of the participant and proctoring of activities in some way.


Credit for coursework

Participation in a MOOC as an entry pathway to formal courses is becoming easier to facilitate, but does require authenticated completions. This is still an emerging area with technical and policy challenges.

Data and sense-making

Key questions:  What data will you collect about participant activity? Will you require ethics approval? How will you use feedback to improve and sustain the course?  How will you measure the impact or effectiveness?

Although MOOC space is usually free to participate and open in nature, there should still be an ethical consideration to using participant data. If you intend to survey or profile participants and to use this data elsewhere, you should consider making this clear as a courtesy.


Evaluation planning

Decide on the measures for success that you will evaluate the course on, from the start and what information you will need to evaluate this success.


Platform activity reports

Detailed data may be available on hosted platforms, for distributed platforms you may need to allow time to crunch and merge data together in order to gain a level of analysis.  Patterns in data, visual and statistical analysis can be useful to look at in terms of how participants engaged and used along with web server logs to gauge use of materials.


Participant profiling

Using surveys and sign up information (e.g. user profile pages) to identify participant demographics and activity.


Participant satisfaction

Providing a mechanism for feedback, as well as evaluating and responding to the feedback can be difficult with a large cohort, so allow scope to analyse and process this information if collected.


Follow-up survey

This can be useful, and managed through the MOOC platform and/or social media tools, to determine what impact the course had on personal or professional development for participants.

Sustaining the efforts and effects

Key questions:  How will you measure quality of the open online course? How will you use feedback? How will you reuse, share resources and learnings from your experience in the open space?

A MOOC may take place at a specific point in time over a number of weeks. MOOC engagement data and experience suggests that about 4 weeks is a good length to sustain participation. Longer courses can be justified, but in a situation where participants are often doing the course in the spare time and don’t have a binding commitment to completion, shorter durations are more effective. To cover more ground, consider a Part 1 and Part 2 course, both with 4 weeks duration.


Public archiving

Keeping the course pages  available after a cohort has completed the course,  for anyone to read and contribute to.


Social ‘rippling’

Encourage participants to set up or join online social media communities spawned from the cohort of course participants.


Reuse as is

Run the course again without changes to learn from a second cohort.


Tweak and re-use

Review the course after its first iteration; consider participant feedback and facilitator experience to provide a different experience next time.


Publish/present findings

Disseminate what you learn from the course as openly as possible, either formally as publications, or informally as blog posts. Consider open journal publications.


Join with others

Consider broadening your subject coverage, expanding the MOOC by inviting other content experts to contribute.


Focus and intensify

Look for avenues and opportunities to provide more support or more intensive facilitation, or to focus on specific learning of your experience facilitating a MOOC.


Support others to do the same

Share your experiences openly with colleagues, especially across the existing boundaries of teams and discipline areas.   the successes and the fails. Promote your efforts in the open space as being experiments –in-progress without the pressure of being exemplars.  Demonstrate potential of taking creative risk in subject discipline and pedagogies.


Redesign your model

Try a completely different approach and compare and contrast these to determine which approach results in better outcomes for participants and facilitators.