Massive Open Online Courses – Learning Technologies eXchange with Dr Chris Paton

by | Feb 6, 2013 | Articles

Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs – are bringing a new dimension to the idea of content sharing. At our third eXchange at Learning Technologies 2013,  Dr Chris Paton has brought years of experience in medical research to explore how technology can be used to improve public health.

MOOCs in practice

Chris described the development of a MOOC on Health Informatics (www.healthinformaticsforum.com) which he leads, which is largely for the benefit of doctors and medical students in developing countries.  Through the Ning-based community, a medical student in Africa not only has access to the best of course content designed and built in the top American universities, but is connected up to students and practitioners in the US or worldwide, who can  share their expertise or experience.

The Health Informatics MOOC is successfully building a professional community with up to 150,000 visitors each month. Discussion centred on how to maintain such a high level of interest, and Chris described how the community grows organically and continually adds further value to the course through the quality of the discussion and debate.

Which platform is best suited for hosting a MOOC?

Running the MOOC on a Ning Platform such as used in the Health Informatics MOOC enables the focus to be on the quality of the content and the strength of the online community, rather than on user tracking. Each user has their own blog on the site and can upload their own data to their blog, although these are not contributing directly to the course content.

There was lively debate as to the merits of other platforms (such as Drupal or Moodle) which might add additional course functionality such as the ability to use quizzes.

What is the underlying business model?

MOOC content is shared under the Creative Commons licence. Chris explains that if you want to share content and make it accessible to the maximum number of students, you should put the content out in as many formats as possible. For the Health Informatics course, much of the content is in the form of courses (created in, for example, Articulate or Adobe Presenter) published by Universities and then embedded in the social media platform.

People were interested to know if there could be a viable business model behind a MOOC, and discussed options for advertising. Although this is not something that Chris is pursuing for his MOOC, for some organisations, some MOOC software (for example Coursera or EdX) offers the opportunity to gather detailed user data which in itself can provide a valuable source of revenue.

Dr Chris Paton is Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and Hon Senior Research Fellow at the University of Auckland.

Image By sheelamohan

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