Interactive_table_at_Ideen_2020_exhibition_2013-04-16_09.27.08This is the fourth in a series of articles that tackle common objections to and arguments against using massive open online courses (MOOCs) for training. Read the previous article: MOOCs Treat All Learners the Same.

MOOCs aren’t interactive. They don’t provide opportunities for active learning or engagement. Learners just sit in front of a computer and watch video lectures (they probably aren’t even paying attention) and take multiple choice tests. There is no learner-learner interaction, no instructor-learner interaction, and only a minimal amount of learner-content interaction. This isn’t meaningful learning—one could hardly call it “learning” at all.

This would be a very convincing argument, if it were true.

In the previous post, we saw that the widely held perception of MOOCs as a one-size-fits-all solution is inaccurate. While some MOOCs do take a “cookie-cutter approach” (which isn’t always a bad thing—think compliance training), this is not a trait inherent to the courses themselves. The same idea applies to active learning and interactivity.

Yes, some MOOCs are designed as more passive experiences, where all learners do is watch videos and take multiple-choice tests (again, think compliance training), but many MOOCs are highly active, and interactive, digital learning environments. In fact, in a study about interaction in MOOCs presented at the EdMedia2013 World Conference on Educational Media and Technology, 65% of MOOC students reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the level of interaction in their courses. Since then, the development of new technologies has only enhanced the active learning opportunities available in MOOCs.

Here are 12 ways to make MOOCs more interactive:

  1. Make interactive video. That is not an oxymoron—with the technologies available today, online video can be used to create rich, interactive experiences. At a basic level, comprehension and reflection questions can be inserted into video segments and videos can contain direct links to course discussion boards. At only a slightly higher level of complexity, choose-your-own-adventure-type simulations can be created using a series of related video clips. Another option is to use LectureScape, an enhanced video technology that incorporates data-driven video interaction techniques, including keyword search, interactive transcripts, personal bookmarks, and more.
  2. Use discussion boards and social media. Many MOOCs take advantage of online communication technologies, including class discussion boards and both public and private social media platforms, to spur learner-learner interaction.
  3. Have a facilitator lead class discussions. MOOCs can be facilitated by subject matter experts, who supply discussion prompts, answer questions, and otherwise moderate class discussions.
  4. Hold virtual office hours. To encourage instructor-learner interaction, hold virtual office hours in an online chatroom for an hour or two each week.
  5. Use surveys and polls. Surveys and polls can be used in many ways in MOOCs. For example, as an introduction to a particular learning activity, take a poll to gauge what learners already know or how they feel about the topic.
  6. Incorporate projects and other real-world problem solving. Corporate training often suffers from a lack of meaningful assessment. Use case studies, simulations, and other forms of real-world problem solving to get learners to interact with the content, and with one another.
  7. Assign learners to groups. To facilitate cooperation in a large class, assign learners to smaller groups for discussions and projects. Learners can be grouped based on department, geographical location, or any other variable that is relevant for the training and for your organization.
  8. Use a variety of exercise types. Even when all you really need is for learners to read and understand the content, you are not limited to multiple choice questions. Digital learning environments allow you to create a variety of exercises, such as matching, drag-and-drop, identification, and so on, which provide a higher level of interaction.
  9. Set up knowledge sharing environments. Set up a course wiki or another collaboration area where learners can ask questions and share their knowledge with one another.
  10. Incorporate simulations. The MOOC framework can accommodate any type of digital activity, including complex simulations and scenario-based learning.
  11. Gamify. Gamification can boost learner engagement and encourage interaction. Here are four strategies for effectively implementing gamification in training MOOCs.
  12. Go mobile. Here are 20 strategies for increasing learner interactions in mobile MOOCs from Inge Ingatia de Waard.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does represent the myriad ways MOOCs can be interactive, from content delivery to assessment, and beyond. What makes these opportunities possible is the new web-based technologies that have been developed over the past few years, and I expect we will continue to see new learning technologies being developed, which will further expand the idea of what is possible for technology-enabled learning.

Just like MOOCs can be designed so that they meet the unique needs of individual learners, they can also be designed to be interactive. That’s the real power of the MOOC platform—it can be used to deliver the training your learners and your organization require, whatever that training may be.

Featured image by Bin im Garten

Copyright 2015 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.

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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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