My MOOC Approach / Pedagogy

I was recently asked to come up with an outline of how I think about building a MOOC. In particular I have been slowly building a Web Applications MOOC based on – starting from my classroom and moving through a MOOC, back to the classroom and then to an innovative on-campus curriculum. This in a sense is my master plan for improving education though MOOCs. They are abstract talking points. Perhaps if you want to hear more, your campus could retain me as a consultant or this might be a good abstract for a keynote or workshop :)

Before the MOOC

Organize/clean your content – understand the topic sequence
Build auto-gradable LTI assignments – test test test
Use residential students as QA – rapid feedback

From the Classroom to the MOOC

Expand time scale – roughly 2x
Eliminate rigor for rigor sake
All assessment is low-stakes and leads to learning
Assessments as puzzles rather than precise measures
Automate automate automate
Recall that LTI tools can be reused outside MOOC platforms
Use CloudFlare to scale static content cheaply
The magic of 5-week classes and 3-week cohorts

From the MOOC to the classroom

Use recordings as assets not lecture replacements
Increase the pace – teach more – make students responsible
Use auto-graded assignments but add manual grading aspects
Do old-school things impossible in a MOOC – like paper exams
Improve MOOC assessments – use F2F students as QA

Impacting other teachers and students broadly

Open Educational Resources – free E-Resources
Low-cost printed textbooks – Amazon CreateSpace
Use CloudFlare to scale static content cheaply
Package materials (including auto-graders) as self-service web site
Get materials on github – allow others to fork and track

Impacting your institution and higher education

Apply the 5-week / 3-week magic on campus for skill-like education
Take advantage of on-campus environment and give better student support


  1. Jeff Pinto says:

    Thanks for this – I always enjoy reading your inside but critical position on MOOCs.

    Without giving away the Crown Jewels can you expand on:

    The magic of 5-week classes and 3-week cohorts


  2. When we built the Python specializations on Coursera last Summer – their recommendation was that classes would be 5-weeks long (with a spare sixth week at the end) and that new-cohorts for each class would form and launch each 2-3 weeks and homework would be carried forward if a student dropped out of the current cohort and then rejoined later cohort. This allowed strong students to move very quickly through a sequence of classes and if a student struggled with something or life got in the way – they could quickly get a “do-over” with no loss of forward progress. I was skeptical at first but it really works very well. Short classes keep students with similar skill levels together and each student customizes their learning path according to their skill and needs. And there are many paths toward success. It is starting to feel like there is a unit of work that is worth about “One Credit”. And with a little effort, such as a proctored test at the end, these 5-week 1-credit classes could be a way to award one credit at a residential university for some classes.

  3. Mark Herron says:

    Hi Dr. Chuck, the platform is changing this go-round and we’re not sure what effect that will have, but if you’re interested in another very successful MOOC (completely different content), you might give ModPo a go (no knowledge of poetry required) this Fall (2016) to see what sort of experience it provides. It’s been running in Coursera since 2012 too and has an amazing feel of both intimacy and community.

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