5 Ways to Engage Users in a MOOC course

moocAdopting an ever popular MOOC is almost equal to zero level strategy if you are unable to engage the largest stakeholders involved in it i.e. the learners. I have come across a number of organizations, both academic and corporate, employing the most expensive MOOCs till today, yet they came as a shock to me when I examined the statistics. The negative feedback, higher turnover rate and criticism on the training content, material and modes used, revealed the reality. So, if you think, MOOC strategy is going to work for you without any input put into it, probably you should not go for it. In this post, I am talking about highly important factors to make your MOOC a true success story, and that is based on engaging users in MOOC course in the most effective way.

MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, as we all know, have successfully gained immense public attention for their ability as an innovative and cost effective educational and learning vehicle. There are now a number of MOOC platforms, that were once a learning startup, and with time emerged as the hottest entities in training and development industry. Among them, some of the names which you must have heard before are Coursera, EdX and Udacity, which are offering multiple courses[1]. You can imagine the penetration of MOOCs from the fact that each of their courses has enrolled hundreds of thousands of learners or students. However, even in the presence of such high interest and rapid growth of MOOCs, we still think of engaging students well in such programs.

If you want to achieve the engagement goals, you must know how learners interact with the instructors and among themselves, during the course. Let me aware you it’s quite a crucial issue since it influences how you design the future online sessions and courses and the way you assess their effectiveness.  Following are some of the greatest ways to engage users in your MOOC course.

  1. Focus the engagement styles

MOOCs though are online courses, yet the instructor’s virtual presence and the engagement style he or she adopts greatly influence the outcomes. Experts have observed a number of engagement approaches adopted by the teachers in different MOOCs, webinars and discussion forums. Surveys showed that students enjoy the ease and ability to go at their own pace, provided by MOOC[2]. It means that the basic and foremost element that motivates learners to get enrolled in MOOC is freedom and having ability to carry on their learning as per their schedule’s feasibility.

Freedom is no doubt the most appealing element of MOOCs. Hence, it is better if the trainer or facilitator or instructor of MOOC respects that freedom and helps students learn on their own pace. Autocratic or rigid management style is not going to work to engage users in a desired way, especially at the professional level where MOOC is being taken by corporate professionals[3].

  1. Use diverse modes of learning

Many MOOC courses that caught the market with their exclusive design and learning objectives have proved to be a failed experiment later. What do you think could be the issue? Well, as far as I have studied those courses, I could see the usage of just few of the learning modes, with certain important modes of learning missing, such as video learning, simulations and field assignments. There must be a blend of all traditional and modern tools so as to appeal learners of all categories, for having a better engagement throughout[4].

  1. Devise sources of motivation

This is the golden rule to achieve high engagement level in MOOC. It’s a human psyche to perform better once he or she gets some motivation. Motivation in MOOC can be in the form of leader boards, badges, discussion forums, online competition, student or learner of the week, best performer of the week, and some virtual gifts and greetings for the good performers[5].

  1. Make sure your content is engaging

Don’t rely just on the MOOC design to engage the users. No matter how best the design is, no matter how well structured the content is, when presented in a poor style and dull setting, won’t be able to engage the students. Content presentation can be enhanced by using modern technological tools like graphical illustrations, simulations, inclusion of graphs and charts and other popular aids.

  1. Each learner needs personal attention

Well, this is the factor that is there both in traditional lecture-based learning system and MOOCs. Despite of the fact that MOOCs are highly learner centered learning and training mode, learners still need personal attention of the trainers in terms of evaluation, motivation, and correction.

I think I have delivered you some of the simplest yet highly result oriented user engagement ways that are surely going to make your MOOCs the biggest hit.

[1] McLoughling C., Lee Mark J.W (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web era. Ascilite Singapore, 664-675
[2] http://www.me.gatech.edu/news/moocstudentengagement
[3] J. Davies and M. Graff. Performance in e-learning: online participation and student grades. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36:657–663, 2005
[4] https://cs.stanford.edu/people/jure/pubs/mooc-www14.pdf
[5] http://elearningindustry.com/motivate-mooc-learners

Copyright 2016 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.– Being a big believer in Technology Enabled Learning, Bryant seeks to create awareness, motivate adoption and engage organizations and people in the changing business of education. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.
Learn more about Bryant at LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bryantnielson

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Bryant Nielson is heavily involved in the Corporate Training and Leadership and Talent space. He currently is the Managing Director for CapitalWave Inc and the training division, Financial Training Solutions. He brings a diverse corporate experience of organizational development, learning and talent development, and corporate training, that also includes personal coaching of top sales individuals and companies of all sizes. For the prior 4 years, Bryant was the Managing Director and Leadership and Talent Manager for Lengthen Your Stride! LLC. In this position, Nielson was the developer of all of the courses for MortgageMae University (MMU), the Realtor Development Center (RDC), and of Lengthen Your Stride! (LYS). In that position, he developed material, refined over many years of use and active training, and condensed the coursework and training to be high impact, natural learning, and comprehensive. Bryant has over 27 years of Senior Management experience encompasses running his own Training and mortgage firm, in New York City. He strongly believes that the corporate training is not to be static but should 'engage and inspire' students to greater productivity and performance.


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