MOOC Faculty FAQ

Faculty FAQ – MOOCs at a glance


Why MOOCs?

  • Research suggests that millennial generation students and adult lifelong learners are increasingly interested in “just in time” education to meet professional and personal development needs.
  • Over the past two years, several SUNY faculty from different institutional sectors have experienced the challenge and opportunity of creating a massive online course. They are supported at the campus level with instructional teams, and at the SUNY level with administrative and onboarding support.
  • MOOCs are “reverse engineered” to learning outcomes at the module (weekly) level, usually culminating in broader assessment (similar to a mid-term or “final”) but more importantly coupled to a project or other learner artifact to demonstrate learning.


What kind of instructor typically makes a MOOC?

  • There is no “typical” faculty member – but they all seem to share a common trait of willingness to “dive in” and experiment with course development and delivery.
  • It makes sense for a junior faculty member to work within their respective department to ensure support at the campus level – MOOCs can generate quite a bit of energy around a curricular area, but for sure they also require a significant time commitment to launch.


What does Coursera offer that our Campus LMS does not?

Coursera offers a robust learning delivery platform – similar to an LMS – where instructors and learners access through a personal Coursera account.  This offers several advantages:

  • Learners are not required to have a campus ID or user name to access the platform
  • The servers do not “crash” with millions of users
  • Courses reach over 20M registered global learners, with 80% outside the US
  • Global reach to lifelong learners creates new research opportunities
  • There is an opportunity to guide learners back to campus based online programs


Is anyone else offering a MOOC from my campus, or within my discipline?

  • Once a Coursera account is created, you can filter search results to discover similar course content or colleagues already using Coursera


Can I offer a MOOC for credit?

  • That’s a campus based decision. There are anecdotal reports of campuses across the nation investigating assessment methods to award academic credit for MOOC participation, tied to the platforms verified certificate which offers quality assurance regarding student identity.


Why would my work be important to share as a MOOC?

  • This is an opportunity to distill research based information to an extremely broad learner base. For example – Professor Gregory Fabiano has been researching how to best support ADHD students for decades, yet teachers and parents have had scant access to his research through expensive research journals or in-service training.  Fabiano finds it professionally gratifying to share his life’s work to very broad audiences who may benefit.


How do I get my course ON Coursera?

There are several different administrative paths to provide a course on Coursera:

  • RFP process – Coursera conducts extensive market research to monitor the type of content learners are seeking, then issue “Requests for Proposals” to provide content on the platform. There are several advantages to this path:
    • There is an opportunity to receive an advance from Coursera to assist with production costs (which is leveraged against future revenue – it’s a loan, not a grant).
    • The Coursera Learner Support Team assists with ongoing course development feedback and project management
    • The development of RFP content is timed with large marketing releases, now including television advertising.
    • A separate MOU-style agreement between the campus and Coursera is required to ensure mutual commitment to the content delivery and support.
  • Campus based offering – because SUNY has been recognized as a full Coursera partner – each campus has the opportunity to develop and host content on the platform.
    • This approach offers less Learning Team and project management support from Coursera, and is typically used for single courses.
  • Coursera Specializations – a logical sequence of courses that culminate in a learner-produced artifact (a project, paper, portfolio) that demonstrates learning achievement to a potential employer or academic advisor.
    • Specializations must go through the RFP process
  • Project Based Offerings – a course that incrementally works toward a project outcomes, for example:
    • UB “How to build a Resume”
    • Stony Brook’s “How to build a website in a weekend”


How will my MOOC differ from a regular campus-based online course

  • Online courses tend to replicate several on-campus course methodologies – e.g., course size, one-on-one office hours (virtual or in person) and small group assignments.
  • MOOCs on Coursera focus on building competencies and skills – the content can still be quite rigorous, but it is focused to “cut to the chase” of what learners want to know.
  • MOOCs can be great “primers” to more advanced and formal or in-depth education.
  • MOOCs engage learners in the assessment process. There is limited opportunity to engage with students except through broad forum posting.


How much time does it take to produce a MOOC?

It depends… there are many variables:

  • The intended length of the MOOC, how much video and non-video content is available that can be repurposed, how much instructional assistance you have available.
  • It is critical that you and your instructional team become familiar with resources available within the Coursera platform – how to use effective MOOC pedagogy, ensure videos are well-produced, etc.


What software would I need to produce content on my own or with a small group?

  • Consult with your campus resources to see what’s available – there are several low cost to no cost video editing solutions: e.g., iMovie, Camtasia, Abobe, YouTube Creator is free.
  • Optional – “green screen” effects – where images can be superimposed on a large screen (similar to how television weather maps are presented)
  • Post production – editing software.


How can I possibly interact with 100,000 students at once?

  • Understand that building a MOOC is an iterative process. Once learners begin to engage with content, they will help guide course adjustments through feedback forums.  As an instructor, just like a non-MOOC course, you will adjust your content for additional depth and clarity as learner needs indicate.
  • Communication to and among learners is managed through forums (similar to wiki style communication).
  • It’s a heavy lift to start, but course is designed to “run on it’s own” after the initial development by leveraging assessment tools in the platform, including detailed rubrics to guide peer review.


How do I maintain a presence in a MOOC if communication is managed in a forum?

  • Coursera has developed “best practices” on how to remain engaging through occasional commentary. Learners in Coursera do not expect the same level of engagement in a MOOC as is typical in an traditional online course, but thoughtful commentary on topical issues as they arise is highly valued (and rated) by learners.


How do learner forums work for assessment?

  • Assessments in MOOCs are fully automated or managed through peer assessment
  • At the lesson level (1/2 hour of content – 4-7 min video + PDF or other reading assignment) embedded in-line quizzes help the learner assess whether they retained the most important points of the presentation.
  • Assessments at the course/module level are coupled to the learning outcomes


How does “on demand” course delivery work… what is “auto cohort?”

  • Coursera is very responsive to learner needs – which means “anytime, anywhere” education, while being sensitive to the reality that “life happens” for busy students and adult learners. To assist with learner retention, Coursera offers an “auto cohort” model where learners can automatically be re-enrolled if they fall behind in a course.
  • Auto cohort assumes that course content is largely stable over time, and if a learner has to leave the course for a brief amount of time, they can “pick up” where they left off in the course content. For example, a learner who is 25% of the way through a course when a disruption occurs can “catch up” when the course is again offered in a week or two (at the same place they left off).