I mentioned in a previous post that we’re relaunching the Metadata MOOC. The official launch date is Monday July 14, & like last time it will run for 8 weeks. Which means it will wrap up on September 5 (or that following weekend). Which hopefully means that it will end just in time for the start of the semester… which of course is only an issue for MOOC students who are also students at “traditional” institutions. But of course that was a significant percentage of the MOOC students the first time around, and I imagine it will be again.
As I expected, prepping for a MOOC the second time is not nearly as much work as the first time. Prior to the first iteration, I was creating my slide decks, writing my scripts (well, not so much scripts, really, as talking points), recording videos, and vetting the edited videos. That was a full-time job. (And thank heavens I didn’t have to do my own video editing, or it would have been 2 full-time jobs.) I’ve said that prepping for a MOOC the first time is 2-3 times more work than prepping for a “traditional” classroom-based course the first time. But prepping for a MOOC the second time is about the same amount of work as prepping for a traditional course the second time. At least this has been my experience; your mileage may vary.
I’ve mentioned Marla Sullivan before: SILS grad, working with the MOOC production team at Carolina, supporting all MOOCs at Carolina, awesome. Well, turns out, Marla was keeping very careful notes on all the issues that cropped up in the first round of the MOOC. And she’s fed those notes back to me as a To Do list. Turns out, there are a few categories of things that need doing, to prep for a MOOC the 2nd time.
The first is, revising any videos that need it. There are 2 reasons that I can think of that I would want to re-record a video: (1) the content is out of date and needs to be changed, or (2) I said something stupid. I’m happy to report that the content has held up remarkably well. Though of course it hasn’t even been a year since the MOOC ran the first time around. One significant thing that has changed in the past year is that Col. Hadfield’s Space Oddity video — which I used as an example in unit 1 — has been taken down from YouTube. But I’m not going to remake the video just for that; the example still works, even if students can’t get to the original. As for saying something stupid, well, I’m used to that by now. Students were kind enough to point out in the discussion forums when I misspoke. (And I mean that completely un-ironically: I actually do appreciate being corrected, as long as it’s done nicely.) Instead of remaking entire videos when I misspeak, I’m simply inserting a note into the video (using the in-video quiz tool, but with only text and no quiz) that says, basically: “What I really meant to say here was…”
The second category of thing that needs doing to prep for a MOOC the 2nd time is revising quizzes and homework questions. Turns out that this is what’s taking the most time. Questions that we thought were clear turned out not to be. (And this is why you pretest survey questions, kids.) Snippets of markup that we asked students to write generated syntax errors. Students suggested in the discussion forums that what we had as correct answers were incorrect. Some of these were real and significant issues, some were not. But either way, every one needed to be investigated and a decision made about whether to fix it or not. I believe that our in-video quizzes and end-of-unit homeworks will be better now… but I suppose it’s inevitable that there will be new problems this time around.
The third category of thing that needs doing is coordinating with my TAs. This has actually been the most straightforward of all. As I said, Marla has been right on top of the re-launch prep from the get-go. I’ve given my SILS-funded TA some tasks, then backed off to let her do them. Because she’s a competent adult (I wouldn’t have hired her if she wasn’t), & I tend to be a somewhat laissez-faire advisor. And while I’ve been in contact with the one student so far who has agreed to be a Community TA, I haven’t given her any work to do yet. Because it seems like that would be exploiting the Community TA role a bit. My understanding is that a Community TA’s job is to provide support to other students in the discussion forums, not to get involved in the course management. Of course, I imagine that as we get closer to the launch date for the MOOC, my interaction with my TAs, and presumably their interactions with each other, will get more frequent, and their workload will get more intense.
So there you have it. Prep for round two of the Metadata MOOC is well underway. Stay tuned for more news of the MOOC, as things progress.