Friday, 1 March 2013

The ScHARR MOOC Diaries: Part II - What platform to use?

What Platform to use?

One of the first challenges we faced in planning the ScHARR MOOCs, was to choose a robust and suitable delivery platform. Of the options available we were constrained by certain requirements which included the need for:

  • an open platform
  • a simple automated sign-up mechanism
  • a gentle learning curve
  • a familiar authoring environment for staff
  • a suite of communication / collaboration tools
  • an established and reliable system
  • scalability to cater for an unknown number of participants

We considered the following platforms:

  1. Moodle hosted on cPanel
  2. Wikispaces + bits
  3. Canvas
  4. Coursesites
  5. FutureLearn
  6. Coursera

And the winner is...

Having considered the merits and drawbacks of each of the platforms above, we decided to use Coursesites (by Blackboard, which also powers ‘MOLE2’ our institutional VLE) as our delivery platform. Coursesites offered several obvious advantages including:

  • Staff at the University of Sheffield are already using MOLE2 (Blackboard Learn) for their online materials and an existing familiarity with this system means they are relatively prepared for using Coursesites
  • Coursesites also provides an easy and automated process for allowing participants to self-enroll on our MOOCs. We were mindful that we didn’t want to introduce an administrative workload here if possible.
  • Pre-existing materials (created using ScHARR’s MOPE tool) some of which would be repurposed in the MOOCs, would be compatible with Coursesites. No need to convert materials
  • Any students who upon completing a MOOC decide to study a ScHARR postgraduate paid taught programme, will arrive equipped with a familiarity of the system and the way we organise and run our online modules.
  • Reading through Coursesites’ terms and conditions and FAQs we were unable to find anything which would be considered a risk factor or detrimental to the successful running of our MOOCs.
  • Coursesites includes a rich suite of collaboration and assessment tools which allow us to create an engaging and interactive learning experience for all participants. This includes Coursesites Live (similar to Collaborate), discussion boards, blogs, wikis, journals, social hub, google docs integration and voice authoring among others.
  • Coursesites offers a fringe benefit in that it is ‘future-facing’ (it showcases all the latest features and tools of Blackboard Learn) and hence provides a useful preview of features likely to appear in MOLE2

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