Part XVI: Catering for diversity
For this week's blog, we wanted to share with you what has been arguably the most challenging aspect of building course materials for our Sustainable Healthy Diets MOOC: catering to and engaging such a diverse range of learners.
Of the three MOOCs we had offered here at the University of Sheffield, the ‘Sustainable Healthy Diets’ MOOC attracted the most diverse audience, from sixth formers, to retired people and others never having studied at University level, as well as participants who were educated to Masters and PhD level, (with some already having specialist knowledge in the field) whilst others who had signed up from India were not very confident in communicating in English. As a consequence we designed material to try to pitch the level at one that was accessible to all.
In order to do this, we decided to use a social constructivist approach to learning because of the nature / heterogeneity of those participating in the healthy sustainable diets MOOC (which was the philosophy behind the first MOOCs developed). The idea was to shift the focus from the formal academic content to a collaborative learning approach, where participants with greater knowledge and understanding could help those at an earlier stage in their learning to construct their knowledge and critical reflection.
The learning materials we selected reflected this - rather than focusing only on academic sources which may have alienated those participants not used to reading academic papers through the use of complex language and the scientific terminology, we chose to also include non scientific materials, such as newspaper articles. These were utilised more as prompts to facilitate participant discussion as opposed to as reliable sources of information.
Therefore some participants who may have been expecting more of a didactic style pedagogy, (which some of the more recent MOOCs in the USA have used) could have been disappointed with this approach, however we have had a great deal of positive feedback regarding the range of learning materials included and more importantly regarding the participatory and collaborative style of learning.
What is really encouraging to us as hosts, is the time that those who are more educated or knowledgeable in this subject area have been prepared to give in order to contribute to the discussions and further the debate and research agenda. This really captures the essence of a MOOC in widening participation, raising aspirations and communicating essential information to our citizens around the globe.
|Week 2 webinar in full swing!|
Fortunately within the School of Health and Related Research we do have this tool. We have invested in this primarily for use in enhancing the delivery of our post-graduate distance learning programmes such as the Master of Public Health (distance learning).
You can watch last week's lively webinar session below...
Luke and Angie