Andy Friedland and Mike Goudzwaard share their thoughts about their reflections teaching Introduction to Environmental Science (ENVX), DartmouthX’s first MOOC on edX. We ask them the questions on all of our minds'!
ETC: Andy, tell us about how this project has changed your teaching practices and thought process.
AF: What it has done is enhanced my ability to anticipate what students will think about material. Teaching ENVX has been like “driving blind.” You develop the whole thing and I only obtained a little feedback when we did our “Study Hall” in December. I think doing a MOOC enhances your senses. You are forced to become more anticipatory about what a student will think. You have to consider all the options because you can’t know what people will think.
It is the complete opposite of having a live, highly interactive classroom.
ETC: How do you transform a class you teach at Dartmouth into a MOOC version for learners around the world?
AF: I wanted to be sure that learners in developing countries wouldn’t be left out. We take it for granted that people use private automobiles in this country and many people own an automobile. But that is not true in other parts of the world. I also wanted to present a manageable amount of material, so I considered what information is mandatory and what could be excluded from an online course. So my 10-week Dartmouth course was reduced to a 6-week MOOC, and in each week, I think I presented only half the material I present in my Dartmouth course.
ETC: What has surprised you the most about designing and ultimately teaching the course?
AF: I was surprised that there wasn’t more interaction with students. I have answered many, many questions or discussion comments but have seen very few follow-up responses from individual students. However, when I read some of the thoughtful, creative posts from people from all over the world that I have never met, and they are clearly appreciating the information and the complexity of what we presented, I am delighted.
MG: There was a moment of surprise when the course began and students began posting in the discussion board. Although we knew people had signed up, that moment of reading and responding to the first discussion posts brought the course to life in a new way. I was also surprised by the passion of our Dartmouth community about ENVX course. We had people asking us daily how things were going and offering to help. The course is better because of the generosity of the volunteers and the hard work of the entire course team. It takes a village to make a MOOC.
ETC: What would you tell someone else considering teaching a MOOC?
AF: You will spend a lot of time but it’s worth it! It changes the way you present information and it changes the way you view learning.
MG: Building a MOOC is an iterative process. I was reluctant at first to build Week 4 first as our “pilot week,” but the feedback we received at that early stage greatly influenced our course plan and the development of the other weeks. Here’s the process I would recommend to anyone thinking of building and teaching a MOOC:
- Plan - Develop learning objectives, build your team, find examples of excellent work you would like to incorporate into your design
- Build/prototype part of the course
- Gather Feedback - Hold a “study hall” and invite people into the course.
- Adjust the plan and incorporate feedback
- Keep building - repeat 2 through 4.
Finally, this is a lot of work so remember to have fun.