10 community principles to make your MOOC stronger

In January we had a lot of fun facilitating our knowmad MOOC. 600 people participated and we had quite intense exchanges. We received many compliments for the way we facilitated it: personal and quick responses. A social MOOC requires a good design of the learning activities, design of the platform and spacing of activities. I think there were many details in our MOOC that made it a success. If you want to read something about the content, check out my some of my blogposts about the knowmad.

An example is our online network café and the wrap up with a meetup. It is nice to see that the network café idea and the ‘space for informal conversation’ have been copied in many other MOOCs. Do you recognize this: sometimes you can not even properly say why you are doing something, at time it is so instinctively or a gut feeling.

Hence it was a good idea of Jos Maassen from MOOCfactory to invite Peter Staal from Bind and myself to exchange about the design of a social MOOC and what you can learn from the way you facilitate a community. There are definitely parallel processes. This conversation has produced an article called: 10 community principes to make your MOOC stronger.

The 10 tips are:

1. Size matters. Keep the MOOC small (couple of 100rds) or work with subgroups in which people with a specific interest can meet each other.

2. Build trust. Under the guidance of a reliable and present moderator, participants are more inclined to share information, to express their doubts, to stimulate discussion, or to ask questions.

3. Develop Tacit knowledge. People in a community share knowledge with each other by entering into conversation, the so-called tacit knowledge. Facilitate a process in which people with similar interests find each other in forums to engage in discussion.

4. Find a balance between ‘Connecting and collecting’. In the case of a social MOOC, participants want to gain knowledge (collecting) and get to know new people (connecting).

5. Use Peer pressure. Group pressure is a well-known phenomenon that can also strengthen the learning process. For example, state how many people have already responded or are ‘through the gate’ to stimulate engagement.

6. Involve experts and key persons in the domain. A cMOOC is not about transferring knowledge from you to novices. You do need experienced people and thought leaders. To make the discussions interesting, it is important to involve the experts and key figures (influencers) in the MOOC besides novices.

7. Allow for reputation building. Once people are together in a group, they build up a reputation. A social MOOC must facilitate that people can also build up online reputation by recognizing contributions or eg through leadership boards.

8. Connect online and offline. In this digital era, the online section is the most important in a cMOOC. But the offline aspect also remains utterly important, arrange for meetups or facilitate that people who live together can look for each other. Incidentally, this can also be looked up online via skype or zoom.

9. Provide public but also private spaces. Many people find it difficult to share their thoughts with a community of roughly a thousand people and prefer to do this in a smaller group or one on one. In this way trust and social capital are built up.

10. A warm but obligatory welcome Important in a new community: the feeling of coming home. A personal welcome and a good follow-up are therefore crucial.

You can read the whole article on the site of HT2: 10 community principes to make your MOOC stronger.

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