6 Steps to Organizing a MOOC

Education & Technology MOOC


Organize a MOOCHave you considered running a Massive Open Online Course or as it’s commonly called, a MOOC? I’ve been involved in MOOCs since 2007.  I started with Muvenation, an 18-month MOOC for educators on how to create courses in Second Life. I then went on to join George Siemens and Stephen Downes for the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge or CCK08, the first official MOOC in the world.

I started organizing my own MOOCs in 2013 with the first Moodle MOOC in the world in June 2013 on WizIQ and the second one in October 2013. I also helped facilitate the first ELT Vocabulary MOOC led by Jason R. Levine with Sylvia Guinan on WizIQ.  MOOCs are now organized by universities worldwide.  The platforms may vary, but MOOCs are open to anyone who wants to learn for free.

Organizing and conducting MOOCs on WizIQ is easy and rewarding for everyone involved. So much so, that I decided to have 3 Moodle MOOCs a year (June, October, February), a Second Life MOOC in April, and a Healthy Living MOOC in September.

MOOCs vary in size and population, have different educational affiliations (formal and informal), run for varying lengths of time (1 month – 8 months), and run on different platforms. I participated in open MOOCs organized by Stephen Downes and George Siemens where the students were free to choose the platforms and I also participated in closed MOOCs where the platform was set. Some people prefer open spaces while other prefer closed easy to follow learning platforms.

Organize A MOOC

MOOCs require a brainstorming, collaboration, and planning. The rewards gained from organizing a MOOC are worthwhile. I would like to suggest 6 steps in organizing a MOOC.

1. Decide on a Topic
Choose a topic from your school curriculum that you are passionate about. Think of a global audience and what would be relevant and life changing for a large audience. If you are not affiliated with a formal school, but wish to start a MOOC, use the KWHL chart to help you decide on a topic of interest.

2. Recruit a Team of Collaborators
Find people who are passionate about the topic for the MOOC. Collaborate on the syllabus and layout of the MOOC. A MOOC brings a huge audience from around the globe. The organizers of a MOOC may benefit from collaborating with other educators and experienced online instructors, technology experts, and administrators.  Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor at the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service from the University of Illinois Springfield modelled that in the MOOC he led in 2011. I was involved and found the collaborative open nature of eduMOOC inspirational. Dr. Schroeder provides interesting reading on how to organize a quality MOOC.

3.  Develop a Syllabus 
A syllabus provides the framework for an online course. What will your syllabus include and how do you to about setting it up? The University of Tennessee Office of Information Technology provides easy to follow instruction on what’s important and how to create a syllabus for an online course.

Content is very important for a successful course and for a MOOC. However, the key is to promote active learning. Active learning involves interacting with the content, the other participants, and the instructor. Meaningful learning often comes as a result of teaching as a way to learn.

Teachers are expert learners because they need to know the content in order to transit it to their students. What about flipping learning and allowing students to do the teaching. Medical students at the University of Bristol did just that. They created videos to learn the material and prepare for exams. Here’s more: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/medical-school/hippocrates/medsurg/neurology

teaching as a way to learn

4. Decide on a Platform for the Asynchronous and Synchronous Sessions
You can use a blog, a wiki, WizIQ or a closed (Blackboard, Coursera, Coursesites, edX, Udacity, Udemy) or semi closed system (Moodle). You can pay for the platform or you can get it for free (Blogs, Coursesites, Wiki, WizIQ). I prefer to use a simple platform so that the participants feel they can move in and out of the platform.

WizIQ provides me with everything in one area. I can schedule classes and upload PowerPoint presentations, embed Youtube videos, add PDF files, and word documents to the course library. Once the content is in the library, I can add it to the MOOC and my other courses. The participants can access and start a discussion about the content. The content from the library can be pulled up into the live class (webinar). No downloads are required with WizIQ. There is link for the live synchronous class. The same link can be accessed for the recording. The process saves time and is simple to use.

Asynchronous and Synchronous
Since MOOCs are open and free, they attract masses from around the globe. The content and interactions with the instructor and the other participants should be available 24/7.   In addition, there’s value in having live online classes and not just video recordings. Students will find the interacting in the chat box of a live online class or webinar very exciting I have met many of my current online colleagues online in a live chat box.

5.  Recruit Participants
People like to share and be involved in conversations.  According to Dr. Jonah Berger the author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, people love to share stories. In fact, “People share more than 16,000 words per day”. They do it to impress others. It will be easy to recruit participants to the MOOC if you start sharing the information about your colleagues. The message will spread by word of mouth and before you know it, you’ll have 1000s of participants in your MOOC.

6. Provide Support 24/7
The aim of learning is just as much about the connections we make as it is about the content. As social beings, we remember and retrieve information more easily when we engage in meaningful connections. Berger’s findings that people share information to look good is another social aspect of learning.

Students feel welcome when the facilitators relate to them by name, inquire about their welfare, and offer help. A student that feels cared for will not leave a MOOC. Students like to interact with one another, but they gain confidence about their assignments and progress when the facilitator or teacher communicates with them. This is the kind of support that learners thrive on. MOOCs need to have as many facilitators as required to make such connections possible.


Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Dr. Nellie Deutsch is an education technology and curriculum consultant, faculty at Atlantic University in the MA transpersonal and leadership studies, teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. She organizes Moodle MOOCs and online conferences. She earned her doctorate in education and educational leadership with a specialization in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix Her dissertation research (available on ProQuest & Amazon) focused on instructor experiences with integrating technology in blended learning contexts in higher education around the world. Nellie offers free teacher training courses on teaching with technology, action research and Moodle for teacher courses to new, veteran, and future teachers who wish to teach online, face-to-face or in blended learning formats. She also provides online courses to teachers and ICT people on how to be administrators of Moodle websites. She integrates Moodle and WizIQ live virtual classes in all her courses.


10 thoughts on “6 Steps to Organizing a MOOC

    1. Dear Madam Nellie

      I read with great interest about you and your great work in promoting and sharing education worldwide.
      I have only recently discovered WIZIQ and have begun exploring possibility of online teaching. I live in India and am passionate about sharing knowledge worldwide.

      I do not know much about MOOC. Is it possible for me as a teacher to offer online courses for free – worldwide? How will I get students that would be interested?
      Is there a database?
      I would appreciate greatly if you could help me launch a MOOC course and give me guidelines.

      Thank you for your time
      Best regards

  1. I really enjoyed Jonah Berger’s discourse because he showed me how there are differences between dogs and cats in photos and how word of mouth is a lot more important for diffusing information than advertising is.

  2. I really enjoyed Jonah Berger’s discourse because he showed me how there are differences between dogs and cats in photos and how word of mouth is a lot more important for diffusing information than advertising is.

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