Sometimes a spring clean is what’s required and teaching a MOOC appears to be a great way to look at your teaching practice afresh.  Recent research by The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that professors are picking up tips from this new learning technology to help improve their face-to-face classroom teaching. The survey of professors that had taught MOOCs (103 respondents from a sample of 184 professors) showed that 38% had been motivated to teach a MOOC to pick up tips to help improve classroom teaching. And once they’d taught their MOOC 73.7% said that the experience had inspired them to change the way they teach their traditional classroom based courses – that’s a significant proportion.

So what’s happening?

Coursera, edX and Udacity each gather a great deal of data in particular student interactions with each other and with course materials. It’s this information that professors are poring over to get an insight into their teaching and assessment methods. For many professors MOOCs are providing some of the most tangible feedback they’ve ever received about their teaching.

Furthermore, designing a MOOC means a professor has to create an online version of a course they may have been teaching for years. Associate Professor Kevin Werbach who taught a MOOC on gamification for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and recently wrote about the experience  shed some light on what’s involved in creating a MOOC:

“MOOCs aren’t just online lectures. My course had a series of short pre-recorded video segments, featuring me behind a desk discussing key topics, woven around slides, live diagrams, practitioner interviews, video clips and thought questions posed to the students, along with discussion forums, social media exchanges and real time “video office hours” that I participate in.”

This takes considerable effort. Which is why it’s no surprise that going through this process is making experienced professors reflect on their real world teaching experience and think about whether it’s time to make some changes.

Finally, Werbach’s course generated a huge level of student interaction, nearly 20,000 forum posts. Although overwhelming in number, feedback on which methods or materials learners love and which they find boring or unhelpful is starkly clear. And instead of just one or two voices in a class it’s a vast number of learners.

What’s interesting about this research is that it demonstrates the power that technology, in this case MOOCs, can have to transform behaviour in the real world. We see this regularly with MediaCore users who find that creating, uploading and sharing online video helps them to reconsider their classroom practice.

What’s great about this is that everyone’s a winner - the students learning online, those in the classroom and the professor. Clearly a spring clean is good for us all.

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