What are MOOCs?
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online web courses with open access and unlimited participation. MOOCs provide static and dynamic course materials such as video lectures, readings, case studies and problem sets. They also include interactive user forums that help build a community for the students and teachers in a strong peer-learning approach combined with automatic assessment features that give immediate feedback to the students.
Because of the potential massive enrolment of students, MOOCs require specific instructional design procedures to facilitate large-scale interaction, feedback and assessment but also to cope with the restrains (personal or professional) of the potential students.
As such, a MOOC typically consists of 6-8 learning units, each including approximately the amount of content found in a typical 90-minute lecture. Each unit is broken down into 3-5 lessons in the most compact possible way so that a student can expect about 4-6 hours of workload per week which he/she can accommodate according to his/her schedule.
Different tools for different goals
The content in each lesson is conveyed using a variety of media forms and methods:
- Main resource: Normally this is a video-lecture of approximately 3-7 minutes, but it can include other forms of visualization, such as slides presentation accompanied by a voice-over, which can be used to effectively convey the core contents of the lesson. In any case, the combination of visual and verbal information is crucial for the success of the learning approach.
- Quiz: Another key concept for online courses is direct feedback. For this purpose, short quizzes in the form of 3-5 test questions are provided in order for the student to self-evaluate his/her understanding of the content. These interactive elements not only help assess the level of knowledge of course participants but they also increase attention span and enable course participants to engage actively with the content.
- Assignment: Assignments are an elementary component of learning units because they allow the student to reflect and synthesize the acquired information and document the learning progress at the end of each unit. Studies have shown that courses with regular assignments produce higher completion rates. Open-text tasks like short essays with peer or trainer evaluation are examples of what can be offered as assignments.
- References: Each lesson can also reference relevant literature or hyperlink scholarly articles so that the participants can engage with the content comprehensively.
- Other materials: To give course participants the opportunity to engage with the content on a deeper level, additional materials such as exercises, discussion questions, case studies or articles can be offered. These materials have the potential to personalize and to individualize learning.
Conditions for a successful learning experience
Besides quality contents, other elements are fundamental to ensure the success of a MOOC:
- Peer-to-peer learning is an important element of MOOCs as it allows course participants to collaborate with their peers, ask questions, search for existing answers as well as answer questions from other participants. Assignments can also be peer-evaluated by the participants. Discussion forums and other asynchronous or synchronous communication tools can also be used by instructors to interact with course participants. The instructor has the option to ask participants specific questions and to encourage them to participate in discussion as well as moderate ongoing discussions. Instructors can also answer especially important questions asked by the participants, thereby ensuring the quality of responses and discussions. Note all the MOOCs include peer-to-peer learning so other techniques should be used to compensate this absence.
- Good and effective communication with and between course participants is extremely important for the success of online courses because it is a social way to get participants involved in the course and enthusiastic about the subject. Through a continuous and active presence in the discussion forum and other communication tools, as well as by regularly sending out announcements at the beginning of each unit, dropout rates in online courses can be reduced. These social components of MOOCs should therefore in no way be underestimated and should be given consideration early on in the planning stages. Regular and continuous exchange with instructors, especially over long distances, is a crucial factor in the context of their participation in MOOCs for many participants.
- Learning progress can be tested more comprehensively at the conclusion of a learning unit and as part of a final examination at the end of the course. An interactive assessment not only helps to test the state of knowledge of the participants, it also offers them the opportunity to interact, includes them actively in the course and enables them to receive immediate feedback regarding their learning progress. There are three chief assessment methods that can be used in MOOCs:
- Automated test procedures: These allow potentially thousands of participants to be tested without the need for a manual review of the results.
- Peer Evaluation: The peer evaluation process provides the possibility of performing tasks that cannot be evaluated with automation – such as essays – even in courses with thousands of participants. For example, course participants must read five pieces of work by their fellow participants and assess them according to a given evaluation scheme and provide feedback.
- Teaching Assistants (TAS): This method provides, in addition to peer-evaluation, another option to process tests that cannot be evaluated automatically. To this end, a group of qualified examiners is used. In order to ensure their quality, examiners are selected according to their expertise in the relevant subject as well as with the help of a criteria sheet defined in advance by one of the instructors.
Depending on the MOOC and the MOOC provider, all course participants can receive a statement of participation free of charge. For this, they must have progressed through at least 80% of the course. Progression in the course is considered to be achieved by watching the video-lectures, completing the quizzes and submitting a certain number of assignments.
Towards an European-recognized certification
In exchange for a fee, participants can also obtain success certificates. These certificates serve as a proof of achievement for acquired knowledge and skills. In order to increase the value of the certificates and, in particular to make them attractive for participants, the plan is, wherever possible, to award ECVET points according to the European Credit Transfer System for VET. Certificates are only available through setting up specific evaluation processes which might include several tools:
- Exams: similar to traditional classroom tests, they are taken in specific conditions and with a time limit. Once the exam begins, it must be completed within a time specified in minutes. In addition, the discussion forum can be turned off/blocked to prevent exchange between participants. Single- and multiple-choice tests, free text tasks and short essays with peer evaluation are currently offered as task types. Exams can also be proctored.
- Projects or long assignments: This case is similar to a seminar or term paper and consists normally of a single question. There is a fixed deadline, but there is also flexibility as to how the project is carried out within this period. Projects are particularly suitable for larger-scale tasks that may extend over an entire course and require a total working time of more than 6 hours.
How could it look like?
The Skills4Smart TCLF MOOC Academy is the most recent attempt to create an organized set of MOOCs, scientifically and technically validated, that cover the most important innovation aspects of textile, clothing, leather and footwear industries.
Skills4Smart TCLF MOOCs that are curretly in the piloting phase will be available free of charge at the beginning of 2022. To join the community and upskill your competences you are invited to register here: https://skills4smart.iversity.org/
The main potential of MOOCs is their interactive approach and community building that the tools can generate. If students from different countries learn new skills from the same platform, they will have a shared European vision and understanding of the sector. But even more importantly, those platforms would reach their full potential only if they are used. And this is why we welcome and encourage you very strongly to have a look at it.
In conclusion, the use of MOOCs and other eTraining platforms in the TCLF industries helps to achieve the overall goal to update the training offer in Europe. It also contributes to uplift and responds to the mismatch between industry needs. Moreover, it helps to upgrade the image of the TCLF sectors and attract more of a younger public to get involved in our industries.
Sandra Cruz – Virtual Campus
Do you want to have a look at the different MOOCs and learn new skills?
Step 1 – To access the courses, go to https://www.iversity.org
There you create an account with your email address.
Send an email to Euratex informing us of which email address you used for your registration in Iversity (so we can ask the administrator to accept you)
Note: Do NOT create your account via social media.
Step 2 – After confirmation, you will have immediate access to all online courses via http://skills4smart.iversity.org/
Step 3 – Start your learning journey. We wish you an inspiring learning experience.
For any further questions on this topic, please contact Iratxe Garcia (Euratex).