What we’ve learned from making MOOCs remotely
Since September 2014, our team has created 20 individual AdelaideX Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). With more than 950,000 enrolments globally, AdelaideX is known for its high-quality MOOCs, in both content and production.
Creating a MOOC in regular circumstances takes a high level of collaboration and communication as there are several moving parts and tasks that need to be completed simultaneously to create an optimum online learning experience for our global learning community. But creating MOOCs during the COVID-19 pandemic takes collaboration and communication to a whole new level.
At the time when COVID struck, our team had just started developing the first MOOC in the six MOOC MathTrackX Program. This meant that our team had to redefine our MOOC making processes in order to effectively deliver the MathTrackX Program while working remotely.
Here are some of the things we have learned in the process:
1. Incidental office conversations are a big part of driving tasks forward
Working remotely, we had to find ways to replicate these incidental conversations. We formulated a plan for how to replace these incidental office conversations which included daily stand-ups, a progress tracker and an active Slack channel.
2. Communication is the key to success
Our team have always been great communicators but now working remotely, we have had to invest even more effort into establishing effective communication channels in order to continue to drive the project forward and meet deadlines.
Our communication channels included:
- Collaborative Google Sheet progress tracker
- Daily stand-up meetings via zoom
- Slack channel for the full Maths team and one for Online Programs
- Weekly Swarm meetings with the full maths team
- 1:1 meetings, where required, and
3. Planning helps but the only way to learn is to do
Our team consists of MOOC veterans but also newbies of the MOOC and edX world. While we have comprehensive documentation on how to build MOOCs, the only way to truly understand the process is to do it. Throughout the process of creating this MOOC program, our team discovered that there are a lot of small undocumented things that occur. While preparation is helpful, experience in the actual build is where we can discover new ways to effectively tweak our processes.
4. We are a resilient team and able to adapt to any environment
From working remotely, we have discovered just how resilient, adaptable and creative our team can be. With the production studio being closed, we are especially proud of our course team’s ability to innovate and capture their worked example videos from home.
5. There is value in being explicit and clear with instructions
There is a lot of value in having to be explicit, clear and direct with communication through a computer screen - we possibly have more transparency than we would normally have in the office.
6. Working remotely emphasised and highlighted different teaching styles
While we acknowledge that learners have different learning styles, there hasn’t been as much time invested in looking at different teaching styles until we started working remotely. Allowing the course team to capture their own worked example videos has allowed their individual teaching styles and personalities to shine through. Some of the different worked example methods included:
- pen & paper
- ipad & stylus, and
- powerpoint presentation styles
7. Attitude is everything!
The challenges of working remotely have brought the team together. Through hard work, dedication and good humour, we’ve managed to take a challenging situation and turn it into a positive. We have continued to empower each other to keep striving for excellence and never compromise on quality.
8. Understanding where your work fits in to the bigger picture is motivating
One of the biggest motivators in producing the MathTrackX Program was understanding that it had a vital and strategic role to play in the University. It has been confirmed that at completion of the MathTrackX program, this would qualify as a pre-requisite for learners in place of year 12 maths. This has allowed for a clear pathway into the Graduate Diploma of Data Science program as well as other programs available within the University of Adelaide.
MathTrackX is a body of work of which we are especially proud. It has been developed by a team of passionate individuals who have had to learn how to collaborate in some truly testing times. As part of the response to COVID-19, the team had to move away from campus, our offices and production space and learn how to work from home. While working remotely has been a challenge, we have also discovered some new and effective ways of working which we will adopt into our on-campus methods.
About the Online Programs Team
Find out more about the Online Programs Team.
About the MathTrackX Program
MathTrackX is an XSeries Program that has been designed to provide learners with a solid foundation in fundamental mathematics and how it can be applied in the real world. The 6 courses in this program will assist in developing the skills, knowledge and confidence for STEM related career development or preparation for further studies.
The program has been developed by a course team with members from Learning Enhancement and Innovation’s Online Programs Team (formerly AdelaideX), the Maths Learning Centre and the School of Mathematical Science.
This self-paced program will equip learners with a comprehensive understanding of the key underpinnings of mathematics, required for further study. Learners will develop skills in communicating mathematical solutions and arguments and build confidence in solving mathematical problems. Topics covered include methods and applications of differentiation, integration, probability and statistics.
Upon successful completion, this program will be accepted as a prerequisite in place of SACE Stage 2 Mathematical Methods at the University of Adelaide. MathTrackX is not a replacement for SACE Year 12 Stage 2 Maths Methods but could be a useful study tool towards completion of this certificate.