Friday, 28 June 2013

ScHARR MOOC Diaries - Part XV: Our first live webinar session!

1.Part XV: Our first live webinar session!

Live from ScHARR MOOC Headquarters
Well, that was a new experience! The ScHARR MOOCs team (led by Dr Angie Clonan) delivered their first LIVE webinar today. This was our first synchronous ScHARR MOOC session online and although it had an experimental nature to it, we felt it was something of a success!

We used the Blackboard Collaborate platform  and invited MOOCsters from the Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC to sign up and take part beforehand.

During the webinar, we were able to successfully deliver an interactive review of the MOOC's first week, answer questions which had been raised throughout the week and hear from some of the MOOCsters themselves.

The webinar agenda was based on a template which will remain fairly similar through the remaining weeks of the MOOC, and consisted of:
Dr Angie Clonan leads the week 1 webinar

1. Introductions
2. Ground Rules
3. Briefly revisiting some of the weekly content
4. Discussing some of the blog posts
5. Answering questions posed prior to the session
6. Post webinar evaluation survey

There were less participants in attendance than we had prepared for, which allowed us to share the microphone around during the session, enabling participants to introduce themselves (where their own microphone allowed) and really led to a feeling of being able to share opinions in a relaxed format.

In true form, the enthusiasm of the participants who attended this webinar reflected that which we have encountered so far on the course, and this really added to the experience. We had anticipated scenarios where we had to take stronger moderating roles, but this situation never arose, and we worked our way through the webinar structure, finishing on time and on point!

Next week we have four guest experts participating in the webinar, so we may have less opportunity for verbal interaction with those in attendance, which will mean that our managing of the chat function maybe further tested!  

Tune in next week!

Friday, 21 June 2013

ScHARR MOOC Diaries - Part XIV: Sustainable Healthy Diets - induction week review

Part XIV: Sustainable Healthy Diets - induction week review

The Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC begins

'Mission Control Centre' By NASACjosefy at en.wikipedia
It was 9am on the 17th June. The MOOC team were assembled at ScHARR MOOC headquarters, (aka Regent Court!), holding their breaths, and anxiously waiting to press the magic button which would kick start the most exciting adventure in learning that any of them had probably ever had!The hour was upon them, and Luke took up the mantle as chief button pusher. 5,4,3,2,1 and ping, we were live! Ok, so who are we kidding. It was all programmed to automatically release at 9am. The wait was, nonetheless, palpable.

The morning progressed, with a steady flow of participants arriving. By lunchtime, the discussion forums were bustling with people introducing themselves and in some cases reading and replying to each other. The cross-pollination was already in full swing. There was a loud cheer when our first video post came in. A magical moment for everyone I think - like a second moon landing really.

It was clear from the beginning that we’d chosen a subject here which was very popular and on which there was no shortage of opinions, hopes and ideas. A "we want to make the world a better place" mentality was emerging as people described what they felt a sustainable diet was and how it might be achieved.

So, can we save the world?

Well, not single handedly, but with a group of enthusiastic participants like the ones we have on this MOOC, we can certainly give it damn good go! From some of the introduction posts we read it was clear that there was significant diversity amongst our participants in terms of backgrounds and knowledge bases. We have been joined by academics with specialist knowledge relating to key sustainability issues and working on current projects exploring sustainability in different areas relating to food; we also have a number of grass roots project participants, with a wealth of experience in engaging with people in local communities on food issues. Combined with this, there a number of you who are taking the course for professional and personal reasons, and this is wonderful!

And now for the week in numbers...

During this first week, the MOOC received 468 discussion board posts (with the anticipation that with the weekend still to come, this may rise significantly before week 1 starts). These posts were mainly based around the introduction activity whereby MOOCsters were invited to introduce themselves, explain what they felt a “sustainable diet” meant to them and to read and respond to any of their peers’ posts.

We also received 146 unique blog posts in the MOOCsters blog groups (which were limited to approximately 50-55 members in each). These included some exciting video blog posts which we’re keen to encourage people to do over this 5 week course.

Finally, we received a large amount of tweets using the #dietsmooc hashtag. For this induction week, these tweets were again mainly people announcing their arrival via social media but also some tweeters giving early indications of what they thought about the course so far or their hopes for the coming weeks.

How are our MOOCsters interacting with the MOOC so far?

Coursesites' reporting tool is great for quickly spitting out some really useful data on course access. As expected, the majority of activity (58.2% ) in the first week has focussed on the course-wide discussion board. There was also a fair amount of activity on the content (18.9%) and then the group blogs (18.9%)
Which tools are being used?

We've also been able to see a break-down of when the participants are logging on to access our MOOC. As we can see below, the majority of access happens between 8am and 9pm British Standard Time.
When are MOOCsters accessing the course?

So far, so good then?

To sum up, we are thrilled with how our introductory week has gone, but if we said we weren't still holding our breath on a number of fronts we would be telling fibs! Will the technology continue to support us and our participants for the duration of the course? Can we keep such a diverse mix of MOOCsters interested and engaged till the end? How will our live discussion webinars go? The answer may be blowing in the wind, but if you tune in for our next post, we're hoping to have caught it and be in a position to share it with you.......

Angie Clonan and Luke Miller

Monday, 17 June 2013

ScHARR MOOC Diaries - Part XIII: Build it and they will come

Build it and they will come...

So, we designed some MOOCs and we marketed them as best we could without the marketing might of platforms such as Coursera. And they did indeed come. But who exactly were 'they'?

Today the first of the ScHARR MOOCs, the Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC launched and we thought it was about time that we shared some information about who has actually signed for this exciting new journey!

How many?

First of all, numbers. How many did we recruit? Well, approximately 1400 people registered an interest in the Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC. Of these (at the time of launch this morning) approximately 1000 had fully registered for the course (using the coursesites platform). The discrepancy between these numbers could be due to a number of reasons including:
  • an inability to complete the registration process (technical problems perhaps?)
  • a change of mind (some participants did contact us to say they would like to drop out or defer due to holidays and so on)
  • there is a possibility that the invitations they received were lost (emails can sometimes be marked as spam and removed from users' inboxes)

The fact is without actually surveying people we will never be able to accurately account for this loss of numbers.

When did they sign up?

So, for those that did successfully register, who signed up and when?

The graph below gives an indication of when people were signing up. Notice that there were definitely more signups as the course start date grew nearer. For the Sustainable Healthy Diets course we were averaging 50+ signups per day towards the end.
Signups from Feb - June 2013

Where are they coming from?

After signing up, participants (or MOOCsters as they've affectionately become known within the ScHARR MOOCs team!) were asked to complete an optional online survey gathering some basic demographic data. We received 584 responses for the Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC.

We asked for:
  • Which continent are you from?
  • Which country are you form?
  • Age?
  • Gender?
  • How did you hear about us?
  • Why did you enrol on this course?

Interestingly. among other things, the results showed a distinct and unexpected gender divide. This may be a reflection of interest in this particular area?
Male: 144, Female:440
We also found that we had managed to recruit from over 61 countries worldwide

Participants 'attending' from over 61 countries
In terms of age, the participants were predominantly young. Could this be related to the fact that this course is online and younger 'digital natives' may be attracted to (or less hesitant about) this mode of delivery?
Spread of ages

How can we keep them?

We know from existing data that MOOCs by their very nature can suffer from a low participation and high drop-out rate. One of our main objectives is to keep participants interested and engaged the whole way through the 5 week course. We're using a range of participative teaching methods to foster and nurture online collaboration and networking. Our weekly live sessions aim to provide participants with unique opportunities to interact with the tutors, subject experts and each other. So whether or not we can keep them, time will tell!

Luke Miller

Monday, 3 June 2013

ScHARR MOOC Diaries - Part XII: Designing an advert for the Health Inequalities MOOC

The challenge: “To design and produce a short advert for the Health Inequalities MOOC. It must be something that grabs people’s attention and, importantly, gets people to sign up to the Health Inequalities  MOOC”.

By boo lee [CC-BY-2.0 (http://
by/2.0)],  via Wikimedia Commons
Piece of cake right? Well, not quite.

Step one: Decide on your target audience 

Whilst we were all excited about the chance to demonstrate our creative flair, given the newness of the MOOC (i.e. we’re still deciding on the content) and the subject matter, we had some trouble deciding how best to pitch it. MOOCs are freely available to anyone – so who exactly are our target audience? Should we expect that anyone who is interested in undertaking the health inequalities MOOC will already have a basic understanding of key concepts and terms, or should we work on the premise that most people are completely new to it? Disagreements over this question led to a number of team discussions about the types of language that we could use: those of us who wanted to speak in sociological terms versus those of us who preferred a plain English approach as far as possible. In the end I think that we have gone for the middle ground.

Step two: Design and record 

The team hard at work recording voiceovers
As the Health Inequalities MOOC lead, Katie had the creative vision for the advert: Contrasting images of poverty and wealth with voice overs from the MOOC team members talking about what health and health inequalities mean to us and stating some powerful health inequalities facts and statistics. So with the storyboard decided, we met up on a Wednesday afternoon to record the voice overs. Dan talked us through the process – talking clearly (and very closely) into the microphone. Some of us took to it a bit more easily than others and I (Jill) have to admit that I certainly feel I am more of a behind the scenes person. Still after a couple of hours Dan reckoned we had enough quality material for him to take away and work some magic on.

Step three: Hand over to the technical staff for those finishing touches

Now the tech boys in our team had the difficult job of finding appropriate images to tell the story of our MOOC. We needed good quality images that depicted the health and social problems we wanted to flag up in our advert – images to highlight that ‘health inequalities’ is about real people suffering unnecessarily. Finding contrasting images of wealth and poverty was easy – but when we pieced these together, we realised that this doesn’t quite convey the complexity of the story we wanted to tell. Many of the images we had access to showed people living in real poverty – difficult to look at and yet horribly familiar from our TV screens and perhaps therefore, tainted with many other associations. How could we predict how our audience would react to these? Secondly, we had to get the music right…. What tone did we want to set? This is a serious subject so maybe something sombre, but we also wanted to inspire people to think that participating in this MOOC was a chance to join a movement for change. A difficult task indeed.

Step four: Review and reflect 

A few weeks later the finished advert was ready. So have we got it right? Well we certainly feel that it looks the part. However, we’ve had a few comments that it reminds people of a charity plea for donations (not quite what we are aiming for).

Jill & Katie