PP05-Early decision making



The following are among the many questions need to be considered in the initial stages of developing your course:

  1. The topic. The course topic should be appropriate for, and benefit from, open on-line delivery.
  2. Who is the audience? How can they be reached? What demands will the course place on them? What limitations does an online course impose? Bear in mind others will participate!
  3. Consider timeframes carefully. What will the full duration of the course be? How many hours per week? (limitations 3-8 weeks; 2-6 hrs per week)
  4. Bear in mind that your objectives may not be the same as the participants' objectives. Note that how you define your course outcomes will help to define the assessment.
  5. What pedagogy suits your topic and audience? Where on the xMOOC / cMOOC spectrum does your course fit?


Who is the audience? If your course is open (and there's no requirement that it should be), who else will be included in your course participants? Qualifieds, experts, other students, other languages? It's not possible to design for them all, but having an awareness of their presence can help you to be proactive in your planning, rather than reactive. If you can address problems that you anticipate before they come up, it sends a strong message of preparedness to your participants. How big or small will it be?


Now we will consider the choice of platform for your course and then draw together your initial decisions in a basic course design.

In a traditional classroom, the room has been built (and equipped) for you. Tables, chairs, walls, windows, whiteboard, projector...these things are all there for you to use. In many ways, these things define how you teach...unless you take steps to change the default configurations. In an open online course, there is no default configuration. You must set everything up yourself, starting from scratch. How you set up the "room" dictates in many ways, how the course participants experience the course. Much like the physical space of a classroom influences what happens in it, so does the online space. In a classroom where we can't change the default configuration i.e. desks in rows, facing the front, towards the "expert", it practically requires students to be passive learners. Online allows us to do better, but only through intentional design. If you walk into your physical classroom and accept the defaults, at least understand how that affects the T&L experience.

Consider involving participants in the course design. This is especially valuable when working with colleagues who are more advanced e.g., PhD students, qualified professionals. It gives them an opportunity to highlight what they need, rather than you dictating what you think they need. This might not be practical for UG students.

In an open online course, the web is the platform. Don't try to constrain the participants and encourage learning to happen in the open. Think of the learning space as a loose collection of tools. However, bear in mind that in a regular classroom the discussion is bound within a physical location. It's easy to follow what everyone says. In an open course, even if you specify the platform e.g. a blog, you need to ensure that participants / students know how to find and follow each other. If you use multiple spaces, it's even more difficult to figure out who is saying what, and where?

Try not to reinvent the wheel. There are other people who do cross-platform design really well. Think WordPress, Google Drive, Feedly, Canvas, etc. These are all platforms or services that you can integrate into your course, that have really good mobile and desktop interfaces. If you decide to use Google Docs and Slides, you know that your content will be accessible offline, will display well on all devices, is well supported, etc. And if those companies go away tomorrow, you can export all of your data and use it again next year on another platform.

Even better than using one platform, encourage the use of multiple e.g. Pinterest, Twitter, Wikipedia, ScoopIt, YouTube, etc. could all be used to create sections of the course "textbook". Open means that you can aggregate sources from around the web, tag them and share them with participants.

In on-line teaching it is the platform or platforms used that determine the context and mechanisms available for learning.

Platforms as boxes?
  • platforms are interchangeable to some extent
  • a platform only can contain a subset of all possible tools
  • the nature of a platform influences the nature of the participation and learning e.g. "the medium is the message" in potentially subtle ways!

Common MOOC platforms

The following is a list of the most popular MOOC platforms. These are hosted (i.e. not in your control) platforms designed specifically for setting up and running massive online courses.

Institutional platforms (Learning Management Systems - LMS)

  • Blackboard
  • Moodle
  • Desire2Learn (Blackboard Coursesites)

Mash-up - using a combination of platforms (often hosted and free to access) to together deliver the required tools.

Hosted - Wix, Squarespace, Wordpress.com, Facebook, Muut, Discourse, Mailchimp, Google forms/docs, Wikidot, P2PU Course in a box, Google course sites, Youtube.

Self hosted - Wordpress, Moodle, open Ex, OpenMOOC, Mechanical MOOC

For example in the Physiopedia courses a mash-up of platforms has been used including: wordpress.com, physiopedia, mailchimp, google forms, wordpress, facebook, youtube.

What platform will you choose and will this be imposed on participants or a choice offered?

If we're talking about a blended course (like this one), then we need to pay even more attention to the defaults - of online and physical.

  • How will you integrate one with the other?
  • How will you move between them?
  • What content and experiences will you move between them?


In your group define your course or courses by identifying the following:

  1. Subject
  2. Audience
  3. Duration, hrs per week
  4. Competencies
  5. Pedagogies
  6. Platform(s)

Add your course definitions to the collaborative workspace.