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Table of contents Features of video content

Making effective notes
Course activities and discussions 50

Contributing to online discussions 52

Section 1: What is a MOOC? 4 Making effective use of online conversation 52
Introduction 6 Building confidence to contribute to discussions 53
Types of online courses 7 Practical tips for online discussion 54
What is a MOOC? 8 Mechanisms for online discussion 54
Level of MOOCs 9 Choosing your preferred online discussion medium 56
Length of MOOCs 10 Engaging in group discussion 57
Outline of a typical MOOC 11 Using the course educators’ presence effectively 58
The value and outcomes of MOOCs 12 Using social learning effectively on online courses 60
Limitations of MOOCs 13 Doing extra reading and activities beyond the course 62
Summary of advantages and limitations of MOOCs 15 Course assessments 63
MOOC providers 15 Preparing for and taking online assessments 63
Types of MOOC learner 17 Types of graded tests in online courses 64
What we’ve learnt from MOOCs 20 Producing work for assessment in online courses 66
Summary 21 End of course examinations 68
Summary 69
Section 2: Preparing to study a MOOC 22
Introduction 24 Section 4: After the MOOC, what’s next? 70
Deciding if a MOOC is right for you 25 Introduction 72
Understanding the learning goals 25 Badges 73
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Certificates and college credits 27 Online portfolios 74

Do you have the skills necessary to study online? 29 Creating an online portfolio 75
Choosing a MOOC to study 32 Choosing follow-up online courses 76
Establishing your online presence 34 Using your new knowledge and skills to secure a
Preparing to study a MOOC 36 university place 77
Summary 37 Using MOOCs for your professional development 79
Summary 80
Section 3: Studying an online course:
maximising your learning 38 Section 5: Putting it all together: case studies 82
Introduction 40 Consuela: an A-level student 83
Before starting your online course 41 Viktor: an undergraduate student 85
Logging in and enrolling on an online course 41 Damesh: an IT professional 87
Planning your time whilst taking an online course 41 Isla: an independent learner 89
Navigating the course materials 43 Bill: a lifelong learner 91
Weekly course updates 44 Glossary 93
Learning and content 45 About the authors 96
Listening to and watching learning materials 45 About Palgrave Macmillan Higher Education 98
Strategies for dealing with learning materials of differing style
and length 47
2 This guide is free to download at www.palgravestudyskills.com/studyingamooc 3

Section 1:
What is a MOOC? “The opportunity to learn
about a subject from an
expert, in the company of
other interested learners.”
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

4 5

Types of online
Education has been available online for many
years. A large number of universities provide
educational courses to learners. However,
traditionally these courses have been limited
to relatively small numbers of learners (tens to
hundreds), commonly involve tuition fees and
often contribute towards university credit.
Introduction These types of courses – commonly referred to
as ‘distance learning courses’ – offer flexibility
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have for learners who can’t attend a campus-based
allowed people around the world to access
degree programme.
free online education provided by some of the The revolution in online courses came in 2011,
world’s leading universities, and join learning when academics at Stanford University created
communities of individuals interested in similar Massive Open Online Courses. These online
subjects. They are a new concept in online courses were available to anyone with access
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

education and offer many opportunities. to the internet and an interest in the subject.
However, MOOCs are rapidly evolving and Available within an easy to use platform, they
have some limitations that are important provided the opportunity to learn about a
to understand. In this section, MOOCs will subject from an expert, in the company of other
be introduced and all of the basic issues interested learners.
surrounding MOOCs will be described.
This guide will focus mainly on learning online
within Massive Open Online Courses, but many
of the principles, advice and guidance are highly
relevant to any kind of online course you are

6 7

What is a MOOC? Massive: Access to unlimited learners

from around the world. In practice this can
‘MOOC’ stands for ‘Massive Open Online mean anywhere between 1,000 and 250,000
Course’. Educationalists have defined two learners enrolled on a single course.
main categories of MOOC, the xMOOC and
the cMOOC. There are major differences in Open: This generally means free access to the
the structure and outcomes of these two types course and the learning resources. However,
of courses, so it is worth understanding the increasingly learners may be offered the
opportunity to purchase premium services to
major differences at this early stage:
support the course or be required to pay for
examinations and / or certificates.
xMOOCs – These are organised courses,
focused around educator generated content Online: MOOCs are conducted entirely
(often in the form of video) with automated online; there are no face-to-face learning
testing; they offer a linear journey for opportunities. Learning resources are
the learner and will provide structured provided in a variety of formats, including
opportunities for discussion. video lectures, multimedia resources,
learning communities and online
cMOOCs – These are more organic courses, assignments.
focused around learner generated content,
and provide a personal and very subjective Course: MOOCs provide a structured unit of
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

learning experience; these courses use learning, with a defined start and end date,
the collective intelligence of the learning and learning outcomes.
community to generate knowledge and are
participant led.
Level of MOOCs
The major MOOC providers generally offer
xMOOCs, but they are increasingly trying to On any single course there may be learners
incorporate some of the features of a cMOOC who are completely new to a subject through to
experience, to offer additional, and more experienced professionals in the area. Whilst this
personal and social learning opportunities for breadth of experience can enrich a MOOC, you
learners. will need to ensure that you are appropriately
qualified to study your chosen course. The
It is worth considering the meaning of each of description of a MOOC will inform you of any
the words in the acronym ‘MOOC’. Most of the necessary background you need to understand
material in this guide will be tailored to xMOOCs, the course material.
as these are the most common form of MOOC
currently available.
8 9

There are MOOCs available within all of the

following categories:
Outline of a typical
Pre-university MOOC
The following example is from a typical course
Undergraduate level
on the Coursera platform and gives you an
insight to what you might expect to see when
Masters level you enrol on an online course. Of course,
details of functionality vary between the
Continuing professional development online course providers and not all courses on
the Coursera platform follow this format.
Vocational User profile, account settings
Course title, university provider
Technical Syllabus (course map, At login this area may display Course deadlines
schedule, learning course announcements
outcomes) from the course educator or
Length of MOOCs Course materials teaching assistants Recent quizzes
MOOCs generally last at least two weeks but (e.g. video lectures,
quizzes, interactive When menu items are
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

there is no fixed maximum duration. MOOCs selected this area will display
that are around 2-4 weeks are sometimes the main course content
Learning community Recent discussions
called mini MOOCs or taster courses; they (e.g. discussion
will give you an introduction to a subject forum, blog, wiki)
and offer the opportunity to explore some Help, technical Supporting
aspects in detail. Most MOOCs are between support, user content
6-10 weeks, mirroring a traditional university feedback
course or module, and will offer a detailed and
intensive study of a subject, with regular testing Most courses follow a linear journey and will
opportunities. provide a timetable of activities for learners to
follow. This can be useful, but can also prove too
difficult to manage if you are studying around
other commitments. A typical journey through
the first two weeks of a MOOC is illustrated

10 11

Week 1 most significant changes are in the area of

Video lecture, Discussion (e.g. assessments, examinations and opportunities
Introduction suggested chat, discussion Quiz Summary for gaining accreditation. A number of MOOC
reading etc. forum)
providers are exploring partnerships with
universities and private companies to provide
Week 2
online courses with validated examinations.
Activity (e.g.
Reading or other discussion, interaction, These may be suitable for professional
Review of week 1 Quiz
learning content production of content recognition and offering training for corporate
etc.) organisations.
It is worth noting that some MOOC providers In summary, MOOCs offer many opportunities
offer structured courses without deadlines – for learners to gain new knowledge and
these can be completed at your own pace. skills, and enrich their on-going professional
development, through open access to
The value and outcomes of resources, learning communities and
MOOCs certification.

In a digital age, information is everywhere and

the internet allows individuals from around the
Limitations of MOOCs
world to communicate easily. MOOCs exploit As online-only courses, MOOCs do have some
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

this access to information and the ability to limitations. For many educators, the idea of only
communicate by aggregating learning content delivering education online is counter-intuitive to
and allowing sharing, collaboration and the well-known value of face-to-face interaction
discussion between learners and with academic for facilitating learning. Whilst online courses
experts. provide excellent learning resources – including
opportunities for discussion and collaboration
“Everyone’s Everyone’s motivations for learning are different,
– they cannot replicate the uniquely human
motivations for and MOOCs can cater for many different
“face-to-face experience of face-to-face interaction. This is
learning are types of learners. Some learners simply want
study groups illustrated by the fact that face-to-face study
different, and to expand their understanding in a specific
have been groups have been formed by MOOC learners
MOOCs can subject area, whilst at the other end of the scale,
learners who wish to gain a qualification or
formed by MOOC around the world, in order to meet and discuss
cater for many learners around their online learning.
evidence a new skill can use MOOCs to build up
different types of the world.”
their professional profile. Additionally, most educators believe that
MOOCs cannot offer a suitable replacement
Despite having only been available for a
for a university education. A campus-based
short time, MOOCs are rapidly evolving. The
12 13

education offers enrichment in many ways

beyond knowledge-based learning; university
Summary of advantages and
offers individuals opportunities to enrich limitations of MOOCs
themselves both socially and professionally,
Advantages Disadvantages
through joining groups, undertaking co- and
• Courses open to anyone with an • Courses are currently not as
extra-curricular activities, meeting people
internet connection. reputable as University-accredited
from diverse backgrounds and interacting with
• Non-certified courses completely courses.
academics. A university education also offers free. • Self-motivation required often leads
a very hands-on approach to learning, both
• Option to gain certification to non-completion of courses.
through face-to-face interaction with peers and accreditation for course • Lack of real-world access to
and teachers and through access to physical completion. specialised equipment – e.g.
learning resources and tools (e.g. laboratories, • Single-unit study allows laboratory equipment.
workshops, computing facilities, libraries personalisation of learning to • Lack of real-world interaction with
etc.). Furthermore, many universities offer a suit individual requirements. other people.
research-based education, through integrating • Option to work completely at • Without qualified instruction
on-going research into the curriculum, and own pace. over a whole course, students may
offering students opportunities to participate in • Peer-collaboration promotes new not realise they need to study
knowledge creation, and the critical review of ideas and ways of thinking. additional modules for a complete
research. • Discussion forums allow learners understanding of a subject area.
to organise and put-forward own • Peer-review not as accurate as
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Some disciplines have particular requirements thoughts. teacher-review – especially for

for hands-on or physical training (e.g. life • Individual study develops self- assignments involving critical
and physical sciences, medicine and health, discipline and motivation. thinking skills.
engineering, arts and design) as part of
professional development and accreditation.
Therefore, whilst a MOOC may well be a useful MOOC providers
way to enhance and enrich a face-to-face
course, it may not be a satisfactory replacement. There are a number of major MOOC
platforms offering structured online courses
(xMOOCs); these are described below. There
are also a number of other platforms offering
opportunities for connectivist MOOCs

14 15

Alison is a global social enterprise that offers
over 500 online courses from individuals,
Types of MOOC
universities and organisations.
Coursera is currently the largest online
course provider. They have over 6.5 million
registered users and over 550 courses
Whilst every individual’s motivations for
Coursera available, from over 100 university partners learning online will be personal to them, it
(www.coursera.org) around the world. They offer courses in is possible to consider general categories of
all major disciplines and offer certificates, learners. The following may help you decide
examinations and college credit on some your learning goals and motivations, and
courses. offers suggestions about possible routes
EdX has over 1.2 million users offering through online courses.
courses in law, history, science, engineering,
business, social sciences, computer science, Pre-university learner
public health, and artificial intelligence from Motivation
29 universities worldwide.
• Increase understanding of a current subject.
Launched in September 2013, FutureLearn • ‘Tasters’ of possible subjects to study at
FutureLearn is a new platform from the UK, with
degree level.
(www.futurelearn.com) 29 worldwide universities and leading
organisations as partners. • Improving knowledge of university level study
Udacity currently offers around 30 courses for use in UCAS applications.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

in business, computing, mathematics and • Gain accreditation for University applications.

science by working with individual academics Possible MOOC journey
and technology firms. Udacity is in the
(www.udacity.com) Complete courses linked to current study to
process of change and will offer training
courses for corporate organisations in the enhance understanding and evidence your
future. commitment to university study.
When using online courses to explore possible
There are also a number of MOOC providers
university subjects, identify suitable courses
in Asia (e.g. EduKart, UCEO) and Europe
and use the course to determine your level
(Eliademy, Iversity, OpenupEd, Miriada X); these
of interest. Dip in and out of the course, as
providers offer courses in the native language
of the country, which makes online learning a
lot easier for individuals whose first language
is not English. Other online course platforms
that allow learners to take cMOOCs, include:
Khan Academy, Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU),
Udemy and Course Hero.
16 17

University learner Self-directed learner

Motivation Motivation
• Increase understanding of a current subject. • Gain competencies and skills to achieve a
• Gain different perspectives on subjects being defined goal.
learnt from a variety of subject experts. • Gain increased knowledge and understanding
• Explore potential areas for further study. of new subject areas.
• Gain competencies and skills for professional • Gain accreditation to increase credibility.
development purposes. • Building a professional network.
Possible MOOC journey Possible MOOC journey
The Study Skills Handbook
By Stella Cottrell Find courses linked to your current area of study, Complete (and gain certification) from
9781137289254 checking level of course is appropriate. Select relevant courses to evidence your skills and
Find the key to unlock your courses led by experts in their field. competencies.
potential and develop the Use online courses to enrich and broaden your
skills you need to improve Use other courses to build your knowledge and
your grades, build your on-going study.
understanding; dip in and out as necessary.
confidence and plan for the
future you want. Complete (and gain validated certification) from
Link your online course with social networking
courses outside of your area of study, if they will
tools (e.g. LinkedIn) to build professional
assist you with enhancing your career prospects.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Professional learner Leisure learner

• Employer requirement for continuing
• Learning for general interest.
professional development purposes.
• Providing experiences and wisdom to the
• Gain competencies and skills to improve
learning community.
career prospects.
• Supporting professional, community or
• Gain experience and/or competencies in new
voluntary commitments.
subject areas to facilitate a change in career
direction. Possible MOOC journey
Select courses based on interest; complete as
The Graduate Career Possible MOOC journey
Guidebook necessary. Take care when selecting courses
By Steve Rook Complete (and gain validated certification)
that require payment for premium services or
9780230391758 from courses required for your professional
A practical, positive approach development.
to finding the perfect job Contribute experience to learning community,
– ideal for any student or Complete (and gain validated certification) from
evidencing professional credibility as relevant.
courses used to facilitate a career change.

18 19

What we’ve learnt • MOOC providers are increasingly working with corporate

from MOOCs
organisations and other partners to secure funding in order to
continue to provide free online education. Examples include
corporate training courses commissioned by corporate organisations
As MOOCs are new there is still a lot of and delivered by universities.
uncertainty about their place in the higher
education sector. MOOC providers are
constantly innovating and improving their
facilities, and trying to establish themselves as Summary
reputable organisations with secure business
models. Over the last few years, a number of In this section, we have covered the basic
themes have arisen from MOOCs, summarised details of what a MOOC is, where to find
below: online courses and how they will assist you
as a learner. The main points covered are as
• MOOCs have become a global phenomenon, with individuals in follows:
almost all countries of the world enrolling for courses on major • Most MOOCs are structured online courses
offering free access to learning materials,
• Online interaction with educators is often lower than many learners
learning communities and quizzes to test your
would like, and provides a challenge.
• Dealing with large numbers of learners on a single course can present
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• By enrolling on some MOOCs you can gain

technical challenges, particularly when using tools outside of the
MOOC platform. a certificate or college credit, which may be
• MOOCs attract individuals with differing learning goals and useful for professional development purposes.
motivations, but courses are sometimes designed with only one • There are a number of major MOOC providers
learning route available. offering structured online courses.
• The number of learners enrolling on MOOCs, whilst initially very • Most major MOOC providers offer common
high, is starting to stabilise, and is even falling in some instances. features: video-based learning materials,
• Completion rates for MOOCs are very low. The average completion interactive activities, opportunities for
rate is around 10%, which is much lower than traditional fee-paying discussion and quizzes or tests.
• Employers are guardedly interested in the accreditation opportunities
provided by MOOCs, but the system has not been well tested or
• Universities are generally enthusiastic about the opportunities
provided by MOOCs and are encouraging students to supplement
their learning by studying online.

20 21

Section 2:
Preparing to “It is worth considering your
study a MOOC goals and motivations before
you embark on any online
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

22 23

Deciding if a MOOC
is right for you
There are lots of online courses available.
Whilst the majority are free for you to enrol
on, they will require a lot of commitment
if you decide to engage with them fully.
Therefore, it is worth considering your goals
and motivations before you embark on any
online course.
In this section, you can think in more detail Understanding the
about your motivations for online study and
consider the skills you might need to develop learning goals
to maximise your learning. You can also use
the resources in this section to select the most Before you enrol on an online course, there
appropriate online course for your needs, and should be a description available to help
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

think about how to fit it in around your existing you decide if the content is appropriate and
commitments. relevant for your needs. Once enrolled on the
course, you should get access to more detailed
information about the course structure,
objectives and learning activities. This will
be your first opportunity to assess if the
course is likely to match your learning goals.
You should spend as much time as possible
assessing your suitability for the course at this
stage – particularly with regard to the level
of material the course offers and any pre-
requisite learning needed.

A well-designed online course will provide you

with a series of learning outcomes (also called
learning objectives); these should describe in
detail what you would gain from completing the

24 25

course. Well written learning outcomes should Do you like to study using videos
be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Yes • No •
containing learning content?
Results-Focused and Time-Focused. You Learning
Do you like to read online? Yes • No •
should be able to use these to assess if the preferences
Do you learn best through watching,
course is suitable for you and which parts of the Yes • No •
listening and reading about topics?
course you want to (or need to) spend most time Do you like to learn by discussing topics
on. This should help you to plan your learning Yes • No •
with other learners online?
journey through the course. Are you willing to aggregate learning
Social learning materials from a variety of sources to Yes • No •
“If you decide the Therefore, if at this stage, you decide the course enrich your experience?
course isn’t what isn’t what you are looking for, don’t be afraid Do you like to help other learners by
you are looking to leave and look for a more suitable one. Yes • No •
answering their questions?
for, don’t be Also, if you think that only part of the course is
afraid to look for appropriate for your learning needs, then don’t If you have answered ‘Yes’ to the majority of the
be afraid to simply engage with just that part; questions in the checklist above, you may be
a more suitable
however remember that any certification will suited to studying a MOOC online. If you have
require completion of the full course. answered ‘No’ to the majority of the questions,
you may be more suited to a traditional face-to-
You can use the following checklist to further face learning experience. However, this doesn’t
help you decide if a MOOC is likely to be right mean you couldn’t benefit from supplementing
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

for you. your educational opportunities with online

learning materials.
Do you have a particular learning goal in
Yes • No •
Learning goals
Do you need to acquire new knowledge, Certificates and college
competencies or skills?
Yes • No •
Are you able to motivate yourself to
Yes • No • Most online course platforms will offer you
the opportunity to gain an informal statement
Are you prepared to overcome learning
Yes • No • or certificate of completion. However, there
Motivation challenges?
may also be the option to purchase a verified
Do you have the perseverance to
Yes • No • certificate or obtain college credit for your
complete a six-week course?
Can you study alone? Yes • No • achievements, which will give you formal
recognition of course completion. In this case,
your identity will be verified by the course
provider to prove it was you who took the
course. Certification and college credit are
26 27

useful if you are planning on studying a MOOC

in order to use for your career development, or
Do you have the skills
if you are trying to enhance an application to necessary to study online?
university. Courses offering ‘college credit’ can Effective online study requires you to have a few
be used at participating universities (currently basic digital skills. Use the following checklist to
only in the USA), as a substitute for taking actual assess your current digital literacy skills, and use
classes there. This can be useful to both prove the advice provided to fill any skills gaps.
you are capable of taking a particular university
level class, or if you wish to gain credits whilst at Advice if you
university by taking an online course. have answered
You can find a list of college and universities Do you have access to a
who accept ‘ACE college credit’ at the address PC, laptop, tablet device
Yes • No •
below: or smartphone suitable You will need
www2.acenet.edu/CREDITCollegeNetwork/ for learning? access to at least
Do you have good one internet
Usually, course providers will inform you if these working knowledge enabled device
to, and
options exist on the course you are studying. If of the functionality to participate in
familiarity Yes • No •
this is the case, you have around 2 weeks from available on your PC, a MOOC. Most
laptop, tablet device or learners access
the start of the course to decide whether you equipment
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

smartphone? courses using a

wish to sign up for certification or college credit. desktop PC or
Do you have a
It is a good idea to thoroughly consider whether laptop.
broadband internet
you need to gain either – get in touch with your Yes • No •
connection from your
prospective employer or university first to find chosen device?
out whether they require it or will acknowledge Do you know how to
it. Additionally, you should spend the first play audio and video on Yes • No •
2 weeks of the course assessing whether your chosen device? See Study Skills
you think you can perform well and stick to Handling Can you download Connected for
deadlines – there is no point paying for a course online audio files to play them Yes • No • advice on using
you will do badly in or give up on. However, bear content as podcasts? your device to
Can you access PDF access content.
in mind that completion rates for those who
opt to pay for certification services increase to documents on your Yes • No •
chosen device?
around 70%.

28 29

Advice if you Advice if you

have answered have answered
‘No’ ‘No’
Can you use search Do you have a
engines effectively to Yes • No • Facebook account and See Study Skills
See Study Skills Yes • No •
Finding find information? appropriate privacy Connected
Connected for settings?
and storing Do you know how to for advice on
Yes • No • advice on finding
information filter search results? Social profile Do you have a Twitter using social
and storing Yes • No •
online Do you have effective account? networking sites
information online.
mechanisms for saving Yes • No • Do you have a for enhancing
digital information? professional profile on Yes • No • studying.
Do you know how LinkedIn?
to send links and
Yes • No • If you have answered ‘Yes’ to the majority of
webpages to other
individuals? See Study Skills these questions, you probably have the basic
Connected for digital literacy skills necessary to make the
online Can you share content
advice on sharing
content via social networking Yes • No • most of an online learning experience. If you
online content.
sites? have answered ‘No’ to most of the questions,
Do you know how to you may find it beneficial to get some basic
Yes • No •
share large files? online study skills advice before starting an
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Do you have an email You will need to online course. However, MOOCs are designed
Yes • No •
account? have an email to be easy to use. Besides understanding
Can you make address to register
Yes • No • how to use a computer, play videos, save and
on the major Study Skills Connected
payments online? By Stella Cottrell & Neil organise your learning resources, most of the
MOOC providers’
Do you have a Morris above skills are not completely essential – but
websites. If you 9781137019455
biography to include on Yes • No • they will fundamentally enhance your learning
Online wish to purchase
a profile page? Become more effective at
profile certificates you will experience.
using technology to engage
need to be able to with your studies and
provide payment improve your study skills.
Do you have a website information. It is Palgrave.com
Yes • No •
or a blog? not necessary to
have a website/blog
to study a MOOC.

30 31

Choosing a MOOC General interest (no

specific outcome)

Check carefully what
outcomes the course
to study Certificate for personal

offers. Certificates may be
available for many online
Outcome courses, but you will have
“You may have There are a wide variety of online courses Certificate for
• to pay (and undertake
professional purposes
to be selective available for all types of learners. When you formal examinations) to
about which browse courses by title and description you Certificate for university get certificates that have

may find many that you are interested in, but entry professional validity.
courses to
with limited time you may have to be selective 1-3 weeks •
engage with.” about which courses to engage with. Use the
Most MOOCs are between
Preferred 4-6 weeks • 6-10 weeks, but shorter
following checklist to decide which type of length (mini MOOCs / tasters) are
7-10 weeks •
MOOC(s) you might want to enrol on: available.
11-15 weeks •
Science, Technology, Subtitles •
Engineering and • Check the individual
Transcripts • MOOC providers websites
Mathematics All of the major MOOC
Accessibility Audio only files • for individual features. Not
Arts & Humanities • providers offer courses in
features Screen reading • all of these features are
Subject area Language • these subject areas, so you
Web accessibility • available as standard for all
should have a look at the
Medicine and health • online courses.
courses they are offering. Multiple languages •
Social sciences •
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Immediate start • Try to think about whether

Business • you need to complete
Flexible start •
Foundation • the MOOC within a
Flexible completion date •
Undergraduate • certain timeframe. If it
Check course pre-requisites is necessary for a job or
Masters •
and suggested level Set completion date • course, you will need to
Level Professional receive accreditation before
• carefully in the course
development description. submitting the application.
Vocational •
Training • There are a number of websites that aggregate
MOOCs available on the major MOOC platforms
and other sites. You may find the following
www.mooc-list.com/: “A complete list of
MOOCs offered by the best universities and

32 33

www.openculture.com/free_certificate_ If you are associated with an organisation, you may

courses: ‘Open culture: the best free cultural already have a student or staff website that you can link
and educational media on the web’. to from your online profile. Of course, you may not want
to associate your online learning with your professional
These websites will also explain the pre- Website
portfolio, so you should think carefully about what
requisites for all online courses, as well as their information you provide. If you don’t have an online web
duration. presence but want one, you might consider setting up a
Blogs (web logs) are easy and free to set up and you can
Establishing your update them regularly. Blogs are a great way to provide
more information about yourself, and to present yourself

online presence Blog

in the way that you feel most comfortable. Blogs are
commonly used by online learners to provide detailed
reflections on their experiences, which they share with
When you enrol on online courses you will other learners through a link in a discussion forum or via
be invited to establish a portfolio within the social networking sites.
platform, so that other learners can get to When you register with the social networking site Twitter,
know you. You can normally use this profile you will be asked to choose a username (often called
to write a short biography, but also to provide Twitter ‘handle’). This will be associated with all your future
links to further information (e.g. website or handle messages (‘tweets’), so choose carefully. You can let people
blog), and you may be able to provide your know you are on Twitter by sharing your twitter handle on
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

your online profile.

Twitter username. If you don’t have any of
this information, you might find this section LinkedIn is a professional networking site, and is an ideal
useful: place to present yourself to potential employers. LinkedIn
allows you to post updates, stories and links in similar ways
This is likely to be a short text based description where you to other social networking sites.
describe yourself. You might want to include information
such as your current situation and your aspirations. You As you become more skilled with these sites,
may be able to upload a photograph of yourself in your you will find ways to link information together
Biography and to provide a more sophisticated online
biography – some people choose to use an image or an
avatar instead of their face. Remember that lots of people presence. For more information on using social
will view this profile and will form an opinion about you media to help enhance your studies, see Study
from the information you provide. Skills Connected.

34 35

Preparing to study a Summary

MOOC In this section, we have covered the process
of selecting and preparing to study an online
If you are using online courses to improve course. The checklists will have hopefully
your chances of gaining entry to university helped you in your decision making process,
or for professional development purposes, and helped you to identify any skills gaps. The
you should spend some time planning how to main points covered are as follows:
make the most of the experience, before the Time Management • If you are going to be a successful online
course starts. Use the following checklist to By Kate Williams and
learner, you need to understand your learning
help you prepare before your course starts. Michelle Reid
9780230299603 goals and motivation, and match this to a
Have you checked the You are more likely to participate Pocket-sized book with course available online.
course is appropriate in a course that you feel able to plenty of great tips for • Studying online requires some basic digital
Yes • No • seizing the day and getting
for your level and complete, so ensuring the level is literacy skills.
more out of your studies.
learning goals? appropriate is important. Palgrave.com • Establishing an online presence will help you
Do you know how You should try to find out how to make best use of the learning community.
much time you are much commitment is needed, • Preparing for your online course in advance
Yes • No •
expected to commit to so you can plan your schedule
will help improve your chances of success.
the course per week? accordingly.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Will you be able to If you will be joining the course

join the course when it Yes • No • late, you may want to devote some
starts? time to catching up.
Can you set aside Most people study online courses
enough time per in the evening; think through the
Yes • No •
day for studying the implications this will have on your
course? lifestyle.
Will you need any
If the course relies on you
particular software
producing something, make sure
or equipment to Yes • No •
you have the necessary skills and
participate fully in the
Studying with a friend or
Have you encouraged
colleague can help to increase
friends or colleagues to Yes • No •
your motivation and likelihood of
enrol on the course?

36 37

Section 3:
Studying an online “You need to be clear
course: maximising about your learning goals
and confident in your time
your learning management skills.”
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

38 39

Before starting your

online course
Logging in and enrolling on
an online course
Having signed up to the course provider using
your email, simply select to enrol in the course
– whether it is free or you require a verified

Introduction certificate. The course will then be added to your

list of courses and you can start learning when
the course is made available.
Studying entirely online requires different skills
to studying in a classroom or lecture theatre. Planning your time whilst
Online learners need to be clear about their
motivation and learning goals and confident
taking an online course
in their time management skills and use of the Having enrolled on an online course you will
tools and resources available to support their get a better sense of the course requirements
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

learning. In this section, all of these elements and will be better able to plan your time. In
will be outlined and you will gain some valuable this section, you can think about strategies for
tips and advice about how to engage most making the most effective use of your time.
productively with both the course materials and
• When the course materials are available
the online learning community.
spend some time looking through them to
assess how long you will need to spend on
each section.
The Palgrave Student • The course instructors may have helped you
By Stella Cottrell
to plan your time by indicating how much time
9781137399991 you should spend on the course per week,
Organise your life and
and when activities should be completed.
studies with this planner/ Note these events in your diary, so you are
diary designed especially for
students. working through the course at the same pace
Palgrave.com as other learners.
• Consider how flexible with your time the
course will allow you to be. If the course is
40 41

highly structured, you may have less time

to re-visit certain sections before the next
Navigating the course
assignments begin. materials
• In these cases, you may want to work out Most of the major online course platforms (e.g.
which sections will be most useful to gain a Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn, Udacity) have a
solid understanding of, and which you can number of common features, whilst all have
‘skim’. unique elements. As an online learner, you may
• Remember that the suggested amount of time take courses on a number of learning platforms
for activities may be lower than you yourself and will become familiar with the different layout
require; try to account for this as you get used and navigation features. However, if you are
to the requirements of the course. new to online learning, this section will help you
• As online courses attract learners from all to identify the main features of online learning
around the world, discussion will be going platforms:
on all of the time. You will need to plan for
this if you are involved in group activities, Feature Description
interactions with course instructors or if An embedded media player for watching video
Video player
you have assignment deadlines. Often, this content.
aspect of MOOCs is most useful to solidify An embedded media player for listening to
Audio player
your understanding of the course. If you wish audio content.
Written material displayed directly on the
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

to score highly, time spent on discussions is Text

course page.
highly recommended.
• Many learners on online courses like to work Multiple choice questions or other form
Quizzes / tests of quizzes / tests to help you assess your
at their own pace, according to their time and
knowledge and/or understanding.
motivation. Whilst there are advantages to
Links to external websites or content for
this approach, you may miss out on valuable Links to external content
reference or further reading.
discussion and interaction if you have
Allows learners to write their own comments,
completed the course in the first few days Discussion forum
ask questions or work in groups.
when the majority of learners are still on the Provides information about learners and
first activity. Profile
• Some learners join online courses after they Syllabus Overview of the course structure and content.
have started and may feel they are behind the
Information about timing of course activities
group. It may be worth putting in a little extra Calendar
and assessment deadlines.
time if you are in this situation, so you can Tools to share content on social networking
catch up and benefit from the community who Social learning features
sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.).
are working on the same part of the course as
42 43

Feature Description
Opportunities to take online or face-to-face
Learning and
Examinations /
examinations and gain a certificate with a
mark or grade.
Listening to and watching
Ability to record private notes to support your
Tools to download course materials (e.g. audio, learning materials
video, text, etc.).
Most modern online course platforms have a
Tool to allow multiple learners to contribute to
Collaborative writing tool major emphasis on video content. This video
a single document e.g. for an assignment.
content varies enormously in length, quality
Tool to allow learners to upload materials for
Upload and purpose and you will come across lots
assessment or sharing with other learners.
of different styles when studying online. The
Ability for learners to provide feedback to each
following types of video content are commonly
Peer assessment other on assessments (e.g. discussions, written
work or uploaded material). found within online courses:
• Introductory ‘talking head’ videos from course
You may want to investigate the different
providers’ ‘styles’ and see which you feel
• Recordings of lectures given to live student
most comfortable learning with. This list of
functionality will grow and change rapidly over
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• Documentary style video content.

the coming years.
• Interviews or conversations with instructors.
• Animations with audio narration.
Weekly course updates • Video with built-in questions.
Most online course providers will provide Some courses may use one single type of
weekly updates which will appear prominently video content, or a combination of approaches
on your dashboard as soon as you log in or be within a single video or throughout the course.
sent by email. These are extremely useful for Therefore, you will need to review the video
providing you with a clear understanding of what content in use for your online course and
is going on in each week. These updates will assess how best you can use it to enhance your
explain which resources are being used, and learning.
whether you need to prepare for tests or group
discussions. Make sure to read these carefully Depending on your circumstances and learning
so you know exactly what is going on in the preferences, you may only want to listen to
course each week. learning materials (e.g. whilst out walking). It
will be important to check that this facility exists

44 45

within your online course, as not all courses • Are you taking regular breaks (e.g. 10 minutes in every
provide an audio version of video content. You hour)?
will need to plan ahead if you are preparing to • Are you breaking longer learning activities into
go on a long journey and want to listen to the Concentration
manageable chunks (e.g. 20 minutes)?
learning materials; if you do not have mobile • Are you regularly monitoring your attention to the
broadband access during your journey you task at hand?
should download resources to your mobile • Are you making notes to reinforce your learning?
device before setting off. • Are you writing notes in your own words instead of
Recording simply transcribing the lecturer?
It is really important that you think about your learning and • Are you colour-coding and coming up with your own
engagement and active learning whilst watching taking notes ways to memorise content?
and listening to online learning materials. Use
• Are you posting comments to ask questions or clarify
the questions in the following table to help you misunderstanding?
make the most of audio and video learning • Are you re-focusing attention on important parts of
materials: Watching the video?
Consider the following questions each time • Do you slow down videos at difficult sections?
you start to watch or listen to online learning
materials: “Are you re- Strategies for dealing with
• Are you sitting comfortably? focusing learning materials of differing
attention on
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• Can you view the screen easily?

style and length
Learning • Are you able to type easily? important parts
environment • Can you hear the voices clearly? of the video?” Online audio and video learning materials can
• Are there constant distractions? vary enormously in style and length, using a
• Do you have time to engage with the learning content? variety of content and lasting from less than
a minute to a couple of hours. As an online
• Are you listening carefully to the key messages in the
learning materials? learner, you will need to develop strategies to
Active listening • Are you pausing regularly to reflect on what you have help maximise the benefit you gain from these
heard to ensure you understand the main points? resources, depending on their purpose. The
• Are you actively questioning what is being said? following guide may help you to develop these
• Have you considered alternative views or perspectives?
• Have you checked the primary sources to verify the • Shorter videos (including introductory videos)
accuracy of the information provided? lend themselves to continuous watching from
• Do you understand the central argument of the start to end, whilst taking brief notes on key
content? points.
• Medium length videos (between 10 to
46 47

30 minutes in length) lend themselves to

watching through in full – in order to grasp
Making effective notes
the underlying message of the video, whilst “Studying online Studying online can be very rewarding and
taking brief notes – before going back over can be very enriching, but it can also be overwhelming if you
certain sections in more detail. Often, course rewarding and are presented with a lot of information in a short
providers will insert markers into videos, enriching, but amount of time. Effective note taking allows
effectively splitting them up into sections. it can also be you to understand, assimilate and retain this
• Whilst watching longer videos, it is important information. There are a number of additional
to identify the different areas of information, advantages to note taking:
if you are
questioning yourself on your understanding of
presented with a • Personal interpretation of your understanding
each before moving on.
lot of information of a concept.
• Longer videos (30 minutes or more) lend
themselves to watching in segments. Make in a short amount • Writing something down helps with memory
of time.” retention.
sure you understand each area of content
• Notes can help to draw together information
before moving onto the next. Take notes as
from a variety of sources and distil information
you go, making sure to pause regularly and
into clear, definable points.
create notes that you clearly understand, in
• Notes can be used to help you recall
your own words.
information previously learnt.
• Notes provide a permanent record of learning
Features of video content
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

for later review.

Most embedded video players have certain There are a number of methods for note taking.
features which will aid your progression through You might already have a method that has
the learning material. Videos can be paused worked in the past, or you might be looking for
and skipped through, and may allow you to new ways to record and organise your thoughts.
play them in slow motion or at faster speeds. Here are a few suggestions of effective note
You should also be able to play videos’ content taking methods:
in full-screen mode and adjust the quality (e.g. Reading and Making Notes
By Jeanne Godfrey • Pen and paper – for many people actually
low / high-definition) according to your internet 9781137402585
speed. Some course providers split videos writing is the most effective mechanism for
Takes you through recording their thoughts. This often includes
into sections, which are labelled on the video university marking criteria,
progress bar; this can help you to skip to the assignments, reading lists drawing pictures, writing lists, and using
and texts to explode common colours for emphasis. However, if you are
most relevant one. Many video players also myths about making notes.
come equipped with optional captions, which Palgrave.com studying an online course whilst commuting
may be downloadable as text files. to work this might not be practical.
• Note taking tool (e.g. word processor or

48 49

note taking app) – this has the advantage There is a lot of research evidence that has
of producing a digital record of your notes informed the design of modern online courses,
and will be available on the device you are highlighting the most powerful approaches to
using to study the online course (even your improve learner engagement and learning. In
smartphone). Many tools have a wide range general, this research indicates that interactivity,
of functionality to allow you to produce notes communication and regular testing of knowledge
just like you would when using pen and paper. / understanding are all highly important, and
• Audio note taking – most devices now offer are therefore core components of most online
the opportunity to record audio so you can courses.
record your thoughts, ideas and reflections if
• Interactive activities: Online activities that
your environment allows this. Some tools even
involve the learner are generally engaging and
allow direct transcription of audio into word-
help to focus learning. Interactive activities
processor documents.
can be varied, but often involve learners
• Mind-mapping tool – there are many free
completing online, course-relevant tasks.
mind-mapping tools which allow you to
• Communication: Conversation helps to
construct visual representations of your
reinforce learning, expose misunderstandings
notes in a diagram that can help you with
and build relationships. Whilst one-to-one
understanding and recall. These are most
conversation within online courses can
useful for organising complex ideas into a
be difficult to achieve, there are benefits
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

manageable, memorisable format.

from engaging with group or whole cohort
discussions through leaving comments.
• Quizzes and tests: Most online courses will
Course activities offer learners regular opportunities to test their

and discussions knowledge and understanding. It is strongly

recommended that you engage with these
quizzes and use them to actually test your
Effective online courses are designed to knowledge; this means taking time to read
engage learners through a wide variety of the question carefully and give a considered
activities and learning approaches. How you
answer. Most providers allow you to take
engage with these activities will dictate to
the ‘homework’ assignments at the end of
a large extent how much you gain from the
each week more than once – this is a great
course. Obviously, we all learn differently
from different approaches, but in general it is opportunity for you to go over questions
recommended that you try to engage with all you found more difficult. At the end of the
the activities offered as part of the course. course there may be a scored test, which you

50 51

should treat as a real exam and prepare for • Reading other people’s comments and
appropriately. reflecting privately on their posts;
• Reading and commenting on (replying to)
Some online courses will require you to produce
other people’s posts;
your own digital content to upload for sharing
• Posting your own comments and inviting
with other learners and for assessment by your
peers or instructors. Where this is a requirement
of completing the course, it is essential that In some instances, you might be able to find
you complete these activities. However, even if out more about people who have contributed
the activity is not compulsory, you are strongly to discussion forums by reading their online
encouraged to set aside time to complete the profile. This may help you to assess their
task as it will have been designed to enhance credibility. You may be able to filter discussions
understanding of the topic. to only see contributions from people you have
chosen to ‘follow’. This can help you to manage
Contributing to online the volume of online conversation and avoid
discussions inaccurate learning caused by using unreliable
“Communication A major component of successful online
helps you to learning is conversation. Communication Building confidence to
organise your helps learners to organise their thoughts into
contribute to discussions
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

thoughts clearly.” a clearly expressible format. This has been a

highly successful model of higher education for Many online learners only ever read other
many years, and in universities is often formally people’s posts and don’t contribute their own
referred to as a tutorial, where an academic and views or ideas to the discussion. This is often
a small group of students sit down and discuss because they think their opinion or question is
a topic. However, these invaluable conversations irrelevant or inaccurate, and they are worried
often also take place informally between learners about receiving negative feedback from other
in cafés, libraries and other settings. learners or facilitators. You can increase your
confidence to engage with online discussion
Making effective use of online through practice. Often, you may find it hard
to express your own individual thoughts on
conversation a subject. You may thoroughly understand a
There are a few basic ways in which you can topic yourself, yet practicing contributing to
engage with online conversation, which may be discussion will be necessary in order to help
used as separate strategies or in combination: your expression. Start by introducing yourself
and your particular learning problem, and then

52 53

ask a straightforward question. It is important conversations can take many differing forms
to check that the question hasn’t already been online, but are often within the following
asked before posting. Most seasoned online categories:
learners like to assist ‘newbies’ and will offer
• Instant messenger (chat tool): This is useful
advice and support, as well as answering
for private (one-to-one) conversations, and
specific questions.
can involve text, audio and video. Note that
a record of the conversation is not normally
Practical tips for online automatically saved. This tool is useful if you
discussion find a like-minded learner you would like to
have further discussion with.
• Avoid entire words in capital letters and • Open discussion forum: There may be a
remain polite. number of open discussion forums in your
• Check previous posts to see if your question course, where all participants can post
has already been asked – ask yourself if comments, questions and suggestions.
you’re contributing something new and useful Depending on the course provider there may
if this is the case. be tools to filter, like, follow, rate or otherwise
• Ask open ended questions that invite useful organise discussion posts.
answers and feedback. • Closed (group) discussion forum: These
• Make single points and try to keep are normally private to a defined group of
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

contributions relevant to a particular individuals to allow for more detailed and

discussion. focused discussion.
• If you are contributing ‘facts’, make sure they • Multimedia interactive learning spaces (e.g.
are accurate. Try to include sources if possible Google Hangout): These are very versatile
and avoid conjecture. tools that allow for private or public discussion
• Although online discussion is a substitute using chat, audio, video and screen sharing.
for face-to-face conversation, without the The session can also be recorded for
subtleties of face-to-face communication, the broadcast or download. This is a great tool for
message may be lost. Remember to try to real-time face-to-face interaction.
communicate clearly and unambiguously. • Facebook: This social networking site allows
users to establish private or public groups for
Mechanisms for online discussion and includes chat, audio and video
discussion tools. You can also share your progress on
your online courses with other users.
Creating time and a place for conversation
• Twitter: This social networking site allows
in an online environment is essential. These
users to establish private or public networks
54 55

to share information through short text-based may wish to simply select the communication
updates. Twitter is a great tool for connecting channel that is easiest for you.
with course providers and other course
members. Engaging in group discussion
Choosing your preferred Some online courses encourage or require
participants to join small groups to discuss
online discussion medium topics – for example business or philosophy
You may be required to use a particular courses. This process can be quite daunting for
mechanism (e.g. open discussion forum) to some learners if they are asked to join a group
interact with your fellow learners as part of of individuals selected by the instructor. The
the requirements of the course. However, advantages of these small group discussions
increasingly online courses encourage learners (often called ‘breakout sessions’) are significant.
to participate via a wide range of routes. They allow individuals to discuss a topic in
This has some advantages but also some detail, in private, exploring all angles of a
drawbacks: problem, proposing a wide range of solutions or
Advantages Disadvantages
Groups of this kind are often encouraged to
Conversation is spread around
Allows learners to use their report their findings back to the whole course,
multiple channels, making it hard to
preferred communication channel.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

keep track of all comments. and this can be a useful mechanism for the
Reduces the volume of Use of multiple channels can be group to assimilate a lot of information quickly
communication via a single channel. daunting for new online learners. and efficiently – creating a ‘knowledge base’. If
Available technology may restrict you are asked to join a small group discussion
Increases functionality by utilising a
learners from engaging on some during an online course, consider the following:
wide range of tools.
• Remember the advice about imagining you
You may find it useful to consider these issues are face-to-face. Ask everyone to introduce
before deciding how and when to engage with themselves and give a summary of their
discussion during your online course. If you are background, learning goals and skills.
on a course where you must be kept up to date • Consider appointing roles to each individual
with a wide range of problems and questions in the group: do you need a spokesperson, a
– such as a group project oriented course scribe and a manager?
– then it would be wise to keep all channels • Plan your activities around each individual’s
open. However, if you only need an answer to personal commitments and online time
a specific question, or are simply posting your patterns (remember everyone might be
own comments for others to read, then you
56 57

in a different time zone, so synchronous Always try to

discussion may be impossible). Try to find time
find the answer
to join any ‘live’
• Work as a team on the activity, trying to Use the learning to difficult topics
Be sure to follow events with the
allocate a portion of the research to each community to before asking the
the course course educator
individual; be flexible though as some people support your course educator
educators e.g. live chats or
may have more time and / or commitment learning: there directly; use
updates and Q&A sessions.
will often be the learning
than others. any updates Prepare your
experts studying community
from teaching questions
the course; try to hone your
assistants carefully in
to identify them question and
Using the course and follow their
or course advance and find
administrators. out when this is
then use an
educators’ presence
happening using
forum to ask
weekly updates.
your question.

effectively On large online courses, course educators often

take on the role of ‘facilitator’ whilst the course is
One of the major challenges of Massive Open running, rather than the role of teacher. They try
Online Courses is the ratio of teacher to to support and encourage online communication
student as there are commonly thousands and stimulate discussion by posing challenging
of students per educator. Therefore, courses
of this kind can feel rather impersonal,
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

particularly if you are used to having the You should try to avoid contacting course
constant support of a learning mentor or educators directly when studying an online
teacher. With experience, you will get used course, unless they specifically ask you to;
to this new form of learning, but there are
they are unlikely to be able to reply to individual
several strategies that can help you:
messages and may not appreciate telephone
calls or messages to their personal email
accounts. Use the resources in the online
course and ask questions through established

58 59

Using social Type of content Tips to help you assimilate information

• Regularly review the course hashtag on Twitter to
learning effectively read people’s views about the course.
• Follow selected individuals on Twitter who are
on online courses commenting about the course.
• Use the course hashtag in any messages you post
The major benefit of online courses is Updates on social about the course.
the bringing together of a community of networking sites • Link to your shared notes on the course (e.g. blog
individuals all interested in a particular posts) through Twitter updates so that other
subject. Online courses often generate lots learners can benefit from your reflections.
of conversation. However, one of the major • Like the course page on Facebook (if there is one)
issues with Massive Open Online Courses to receive regular updates and to review learners’
is the volume of conversation generated comments.
and working out how to assimilate this • Share your blog posts through social networking
information productively. In this section, you sites so other learners can benefit from your
will gain some tips about how to manage the reflections.
learner content generated as part of an online • Pick a few bloggers to follow whilst taking the
course: course, so you can benefit from their perspectives
Posts on blogs about the course.
Type of content Tips to help you assimilate information about the course
• Add your reflections on their views to your private /
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• Some platforms will allow you to ‘like’ or rate posts shared notes.
so they rise to the top and / or can be linked to your • Consider posting your reflections in an open
profile; use this feature if available to keep a record discussion forum so all course participants are
Output from open of posts you have found useful. aware of the blog postings.
discussion forums • Keep a private record (in your study notes) of • Select a representative sample of other learners’
interesting posts and your reflections on them. material to review and reflect on.
• Some platforms allow you to ‘tag’ interesting posts Learner generated
• Use this content to add depth to your reflective
so you can quickly call up all posts you found useful. content uploaded
notes and broaden your own perspectives.
to the course
• Store the group’s summary of their activity. • Provide feedback to other learners about their
Output from
group activities • Record a summary of the group’s outcomes in your content.
private / shared notes. Informal update • Use these as core learning materials, but
from course recognising the informal tone.
educators (e.g. • Reflect on these postings in relation to more formal
notes or blog content provided by the educator; they may be very
postings) insightful and add more context.

60 61

Doing extra reading may be based on a specific textbook or

monograph, particularly one written by the

and activities course instructor. In these cases, you may be

encouraged to purchase a book (either print or
beyond the course digital) to assist with your learning. You should
consider carefully whether a book will be of
value to your understanding of the course
You will often find that course instructors
will provide you with opportunities to delve before purchasing.
deeper into the topic by providing links to
external resources. These are often considered
as additional to the course requirements, Course
so you will have to make a judgement as
to whether you think they will enrich your
learning sufficiently to justify your time.
Common types of additional learning
resources are outlined below:
Preparing for and taking
online assessments
• Links to research papers: Online courses
aimed at undergraduate or postgraduate Depending on the type of online course you are
students will almost certainly include taking, formal assessment may be available.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

reference to journal articles. These will prepare Some ‘taster’ courses do not include a formal
you well for intensive study of the subject, exam but offer regular quizzes to help you
and are especially useful if you are seriously assess your understanding. However, most
considering taking the subject further after the online courses do offer learners opportunities
course has finished. to take marked assessments and examinations
• Links to external content: Course instructors and receive a certificate documenting their
will often provide links to additional learning overall mark or grade.
materials available on the internet. This is a
In order to certify that you are not cheating,
major benefit of online courses, as it can save
some course providers require you to sign up
you from searching for resources yourself,
to their ‘honour code’. However, for courses
and offers you materials that have been
that carry college credits, some online course
recommended by an academic expert. On
providers offer a service for you to complete
some platforms, the main source of course
invigilated examinations under timed conditions
content will be provided for free in PDF form
– observed through your webcam or even in
as a learning resource.
person at a supervised test-centre.
• Links to books: Some online courses

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Assessment within online courses falls into the the instructions and rules before commencing
following categories: any in-course graded test. These tests often
only count a small proportion towards the final
• In-course formative assessment (non-graded
course mark, but can provide a welcome boost
towards other forms of assessment if completed
• In-course summative assessment (graded
successfully. Additionally, they will highlight
areas that you may need to review for the final
• End of course examination (graded exam).
assessment. Some quizzes can be re-taken at
In this section, you can think about how to any time up until the final deadline for the course
prepare for graded tests and exams on online – meaning you have as much time as you wish
courses and learn how examinations are to re-visit material you find difficult.
Peer assessment of learning is a more
Types of graded tests in controversial area of assessment within
online courses online courses. It normally arises in subjects
where MCQs are not an appropriate form of
Assessment in online courses is becoming assessment, such as arts and humanities.
increasingly sophisticated as the technology Learners may be required to produce a digital
and functionality within platforms improves. artefact (e.g. an image, a document, a short
Currently, there are a limited number of ways film) and upload it to a video hosting service or
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

through which graded tests are conducted. directly to the course platform for assessment.
This is because the size of some online Learners enrolled on the course will then
courses means that manual grading of work be requested to assess each others’ work,
by instructors is impossible. Therefore, most using marking criteria provided by course
graded tests are either: instructors. Commonly, a number of learners
• Marked automatically (e.g. multiple choice will independently assess each piece of work.
questions, MCQs). Clearly, there are a number of potential pitfalls
• Peer assessed by other learners enrolled on with this approach, including consistency and
the course. quality of marking, feedback and workload for
learners. Some of these issues are overcome by
Automatically marked tests (e.g. MCQs) will random check marking by teaching assistants or
be provided by the course instructor and will course instructors and by incentivising accurate
normally come with some restrictions, such as marking, but with large online courses this can
a limited availability and deadline, limited time become unwieldy. Therefore, the use of peer
to complete once the test has started, number assessment for graded tests is currently quite
of attempts etc. You should carefully check
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restricted within online courses. However, it will provide some advice about production of
is quite common to see peer assessment for various forms of assessment for online courses:
non-graded (formative) tests. On some courses,
Type of assessment Tips for success
it is possible to re-submit peer assessments
• Check the assessment criteria and guidelines
as many times as you wish before the ultimate
carefully before starting (e.g. length, format,
deadline. Individual written
referencing, style, deadline).
assessment (e.g.
If you are required to undertake peer essay, story, • Avoid plagiarism.
assessment as part of an online course, you summary, article, • Write clearly, concisely and accurately.
may find the following tips useful: report etc.) • Plan time for proof-reading and editing.
• Set aside sufficient time to undertake your • Organise references as you write the assessment.
marking load conscientiously. • Check the assessment criteria and guidelines
• Follow the marking criteria provided carefully carefully before starting (e.g. length, format,
and try to be as objective as possible in your referencing, style, deadline).
assessment of the work. • Plan team roles and assign responsibilities to
“When providing • When providing feedback to other learners, Group written all individuals – if possible based on individual
assessment strengths.
feedback to think about how you would react if given the
• Use online tools (e.g. Skype) to have regular
other learners, feedback; try to provide positive feedback and
virtual editorial meetings.
think about areas for improvement in all feedback.
• Avoid plagiarism.
how you would • Seek clarification from the course instructor if
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• Proof read and edit each others’ contributions.

react if given the the marking criteria are unclear, ambiguous or
open to interpretation. • Check the assessment criteria and guidelines
feedback.” carefully before starting (e.g. format, style,
Producing work for Audio-visual artefact
• Check format requirements carefully (e.g. movie
assessment in online courses (e.g. short film, song,
reading, performance
file type).
etc.) • Adhere to copyright laws, intellectual property,
When considering MOOCs, as discussed above
data protection and performance rights when
there are normally limited instances when producing content and using other people’s
learners are required to submit their own work material.
for assessment, due to the volume of marking
this would generate for instructors. However,
for smaller online courses you may be required
to produce written (or other digital forms) of
work for assessment by teaching assistants,
course instructors or peers. The following table

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Type of assessment Tips for success

• Check the assessment criteria and guidelines
carefully before starting (e.g. requirements, In this section, we have covered the major
output, deadline) elements of an online course and provided
• Ensure you have the appropriate hardware / advice about how to navigate and engage with
of simulation,
software to access the assessment the course materials and learning community
experiment etc.
• Ensure appropriate risk assessments and Health most effectively to enhance your learning
and Safety requirements are in place when experience. The key elements for success are as
conducting real experiments follows:

End of course examinations • Prepare thoroughly to ensure you get the most
out of the course.
Many online courses provide learners with • Use the learning materials effectively and
the opportunity to take an end of course record your learning.
examination. Depending on your motivation and • Engage with learning activities to assess your
learning goals, you will decide whether or not knowledge and understanding.
to take this examination, which may have cost • Engage with the learning community through
implications. End of course examinations usually group activities and online discussion:
take one of the following forms: conversation enriches learning.
• Be aware of the requirements for successful
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• Online examination (e.g. MCQ)

• Online invigilated (proctored) examination course completion if you want to get a
(often via a webcam observer) certificate or other outcome from the course.
• Face-to-face invigilated examination in an
assessment centre
The type of end of course examination available
will depend on the course you are taking and the
online platform. Costs for taking examinations
vary between online platforms and the method
of assessment. It is worth finding out about the
examination opportunities before you enrol on a

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Section 4:
After the MOOC, “Completing your first
what’s next? online course is a major
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

70 71

Accreditation from online course providers
is a great way to gain recognition for your
new knowledge and skills, however the open
software community ‘Mozilla’ have developed
something similar known as ‘Open Badges’. By
signing up to their free service, you are issued
Introduction with an online ‘backpack’, which you use to
store any badges you have earned.
Completing your first online course is a major Each badge is a representation of a particular
achievement. In this section, you can consider skill or knowledge-set you have learned, for
the next steps, in terms of gaining certificates example ‘Collaborator’ or ‘Web Designer’.
and / or college credits and how to use your All badges are based on a shared technical
online course to enhance your online portfolio standard which means you can earn them from
and professional development. many different places to build up a portfolio
of your learning achievements. Currently, only
a few organisations and businesses issue
Open Badges, though the platform is still in its
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

infancy. It is thought that course providers may

eventually start to issue badges, however their
purpose is mainly to showcase specific skills
and achievements. With badges being awarded
for both online and offline learning, you are
able to showcase many more of your skills than
you would be able to through online course
accreditation alone.

If you have successfully completed an online

course and decide you wish to continue your
learning, you may want to showcase all of your
achievements – including your online backpack,
scanned transcripts and degrees from traditional
universities and colleges – using an online
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Online portfolios Creating an online portfolio

Accredible is a great tool for building an online
Online portfolios add yet another
portfolio. After signing up, your portfolio will
dimension to a learner’s demonstration
consist of what are known as ‘slates’. Each
of their knowledge and skills. Through an
online portfolio site such as Accredible, slate contains information about a specific
students are able to upload their test scores, qualification – such as a degree or online course
coursework and notable projects, which transcript – or a description and evidence of a
can then be viewed by individuals such as specific skill – such as Word or Excel skills.
potential employers and college admissions
tutors. Many people also use LinkedIn, the Additionally, you can upload your current CV,
professional networking site, to document verify your identity and connect your account
their skills and achievements. You can include to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and edit your
details of online courses that you have profile and upload a profile photo. There are 4
completed on your LinkedIn profile. stages of development for an Accredible profile
– functional, developed, exemplary and master.
Just as accreditation and badges strengthen Continually following the guidelines provided
the validity of your completion of a course and at each stage will advance you to the next one
its material, online portfolios are a great way and further cement you as an individual with a
to demonstrate your understanding of it, and diverse skill-set.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

what you actually used it for. For example,

it is possible to showcase your certificates Once you have created your basic profile, you
from MOOCs in different subject areas – can begin to add slates to it in order to enhance
computer science and electrical engineering your credibility. To provide evidence of your
for example – and then demonstrate how you skills, you may want to use the upload files/URL
creatively brought the two together in a project option to add evidence such as degree papers,
of your own design. You could then create a online course transcripts, project files in which
presentation about this project in order to show you did well or relevant research and websites
creative use of your newfound knowledge. you have found/made which show off the depth
of your understanding. If you have been taking
particularly good notes it may also be a good
idea to upload these in order to show your
commitment to your learning. Additionally you
could upload artwork or infographics related to
your subject.

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Choosing follow-up have enrolled on a course with flexible start

and end dates, you may even be able to re-do

online courses quizzes in order to test your understanding once

more. If the course is part of your professional
development, it may be a good idea to re-enrol
You may have already successfully completed
in order to take the final assessment again –
an online course and be looking to further
your understanding in the same subject area gaining a higher final score from your newfound
“It is important or gain additional skills. It is important that understanding.
that you reflect you reflect on what you have gained from a
If you have successfully completed an online
on what you have course already, as well as what you may need
course and need to study further for any reason,
to add to this depending on your personal
gained from a most online course providers will detail a
course already, structured progression in the subject area, for
as well as what Upon completion of an online course you may example, Calculus 1 to Calculus 2. Alternatively,
you may need to find that: you may find it useful to consult the online
add to this.” • You have gained a satisfactory understanding
course community to gain recommendations
about where to progress to.
of the subject and require no additional study.
• You have gained only a partial understanding

Using your new

and require revision of a few key areas.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

• You enjoyed the course, and you want to

expand your knowledge in the subject area for
professional reasons or personal enjoyment. knowledge and
• You have expanded your knowledge and skill
set but require additional specific skills instead skills to secure a
of completing a whole new course.
If you require no additional study in the subject,
university place
then you may want to find a related subject to If you are a pre-university student or a
study. You could also simply choose something graduate looking to take a Masters degree
completely unrelated – especially if you are “Online courses or other postgraduate qualification, online
simply learning for your own pleasure. If you can be an courses are an ideal way to enhance your CV
require revision of a few key areas, it may be effective way to and show your commitment to learning. It is
a good idea to simply go over notes you have important that you are able to talk about, and
enhance your
made and re-watch key videos. This is especially evidence the knowledge and skills you gained
professional from your online course when applying for
true if you have downloaded the course videos development.”
as you will have them readily available. If you
university places and in interviews. Use the

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following checklist to help you make the most

of your online course experience. Using MOOCs for
Try to identify three new your professional
Could you describe what new things that you learnt
knowledge you gained from
taking the online course?
Yes • No • from taking this course;
you might be asked to
give these as examples.
Online courses can be an effective way to
Did the course improve your Think about a skill you enhance your professional development, both
skills (e.g. critical thinking, have gained or improved. informally and formally. Informally, taking
Yes • No •
writing, debating etc.)? If so, How do you know it has
courses in your own time will increase your
can you give an example? improved?
knowledge and skills and may prove crucial to
Taking on board other securing your next job or offer of a university
Did the course encourage you
people’s views is an
to see the topic from different place. Formally, online courses can provide
important skill. Can you
angles, through educator or Yes • No • you with validated evidence of your knowledge
think of an example of
learner contributions? If so, and skills, which you can include on your CV
how your views have
can you give an example? or online portfolio. When you are using online
been shaped by others?
courses for formal professional development,
Try to summarise the
Could you include an example this may be a requirement of your employer
knowledge and skills
about your experiences or for your own purposes. If you are taking
Yes • No • you have gained and
of taking the course in a online courses for your own purposes, you
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

how they apply to your

university application? should think carefully about your goals and
learning goals.
Talk to other people requirements before signing up for a course;
Would you be able to in particular check the outcomes and costs
about your experiences
summarise the benefits of associated with the course, as you will need
Yes • No • of taking the course; this
taking the course during an to ensure a validated certificate is available.
will help you prepare for
an interview question. Once you have completed the course, be sure
to include it on your CV, and your online
Bear in mind that universities may not portfolio (e.g. LinkedIn).
necessarily accept online courses as proof of
your skills or competence. However, simply
by being able to demonstrate self-directed
learning, self-motivation, and a description of
how these skills have informed other areas of
your education, your application will definitely be

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In this section, we have covered some of the
ways to use your online course to enhance
your professional development. The key
elements for success are as follows:
• Ensure you check the available outcomes
from a course before enrolling. If you need a
validated certificate, make sure that option is
• Share your success on an online course
widely, through your online profile and in your
• Demonstrate your new knowledge and skills
in applications to enhance your chances of
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

80 81

Consuela: an A-level
Consuela is currently studying at college
where she has just started Year 13. She
is busy with university applications and
increasingly difficult work in the subjects she
Section 5: is studying – biology, chemistry, psychology
and maths. Consuela is planning on studying

Putting it all psychology at university, as this is her

strongest subject. As part of her research into
possible universities for her UCAS application,

together: case Consuela comes across a new online course

(a MOOC) at one of the universities she is
interested in applying to. Since she will be

studies studying psychology within the next year,

she decides to get a head start in her course
and enrols on an Introduction to Psychology
course, aimed at undergraduate students.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Through the course, Consuela starts to discover

her natural aptitude for autonomous learning
which she did not know she had the capacity for
– due to being heavily led through her subjects
at college. She finds that she is learning how to
de-construct her own knowledge and identify
areas which she is weakest in. Through the
repeated use of online quizzes and discussion
forums, Consuela is able to re-enforce her
knowledge in these areas and overcome these
weaknesses in knowledge. She is taking full
control of her learning, instead of passively
consuming information and finds that the
material is an extension to the work she is doing
in her A-level studies, and that her coursework

82 83

marks are increasing significantly. In addition to

improvements in her understanding, she also
Viktor: an
learns to alter her online ‘netiquette’ – adapting
her online presence from how she is used to
acting through technology and social media in
her day-to-day life.
However, although she is now excelling in Viktor is enrolled on an undergraduate
psychology, she notices her other subjects – engineering degree programme. Despite
scoring fairly well on recent tests, he feels
which she was naturally talented in – have taken
that he could achieve more but does not
a fall results-wise. Fortunately, Consuela now
know how to gain a deeper understanding of
has the skills to embrace these deficiencies
his subject. Viktor attends all his seminars,
and enrols on a new MOOC, An Introduction tutorials and practical classes, however does
to Biochemistry. This course covers elements not value lectures as much because of their
from her biology and chemistry A-levels, and lack of interaction and long length – especially
explains the subject in new ways that she can when he considers that often he can learn the
relate to, enabling her to identify what she summarised key points in about 15 minutes
has been struggling with. Her grades improve from videos on similar topics readily available
significantly and she gets better A-level results on the internet.
than she was predicted. Consuela applies to a
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

During a break between lectures where he is

more research-based university through clearing
revising his notes, he happens to pick up a
– she is accepted due to her demonstration of
copy of his university’s student magazine. In
motivation, self-directed study and creativity.
it, he sees an article which describes how one
“Consuela is Consuela arrives at university fully prepared for department has recently released a successful
able to directly her course, in which she is a consistently high- online course based on one of their modules.
transfer the skills achiever. Her high achievement in part stems Viktor wonders whether other universities may
learned through from her university’s approach to education. She offer something similar for his own subject.
the MOOCs to is taught in a ‘blended-learning’ environment
He searches online and finds a number of
her university where online resources and technology are
free courses which sound like modules he
used to enhance education. Consuela is able
education.” is currently enrolled on. Unsure of which to
to directly transfer the skills learned through the
choose, he enrols on several to investigate
MOOCs to her university education.
which suits his needs best. He finds that
different course providers offer material in
different styles and settles on a course given by

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an instructor who explains the subject quickly

with real-world examples. Satisfied, Viktor
Damesh: an IT
is able to use the MOOC to supplement the
material in his lectures and as a source of extra
Damesh is a middle-aged professional in an
As Viktor is new to online courses, he is nervous IT administration office. He is asked to take
about exploring the discussion side of them. on more responsibility for the company and is
However, he finds that since he has done
thus required to gain some new understanding
of specific topics. This understanding is
some wider reading, he is able to answer some
recommended to come in the form of an
peoples’ questions on the discussion forums
accredited online MOOC – for which he is
and also posts useful articles and journals which reimbursed and given access to. However, due
he believes will help his course-mates. Through to his already heavy workload he is unable to
contribution to group discussion, he solidifies his find spare time in his working day to study.
understanding of the subject and learns how to Luckily, Damesh finds the course is flexible
meaningfully express this to his peers online. As enough that he can fit in studying in between
his understanding increases, he finds he is now work and caring for his family. He studies
able to pass it on in tutorials and seminars to his in the evenings – enrolled on a Business
university course-mates. Consultancy course which his superiors hope
he will use to analyse the company’s business
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

“Viktor is better Due to his greater understanding, Viktor is strategy and implement a more streamlined IT
able to see better able to see how his subject relates to solution.
how his subject other fields. Based on his successes with
Damesh – although initially frustrated by his
relates to other his first MOOC, he enrols on an Introduction
to Computer Science course, which offers a increasing lack of free time – begins to enjoy
fields.” the course due to the benefits it provides. The
validated certificate. Viktor later applies for a
Master’s programme in robotics, and provides course he is enrolled on is structured and has
the certificate from the computer science course assignments, deadlines and a final, proctored
as part of his application. Viktor is successful assessment. He is however, free to study how
with his application, and towards the end of he wishes within the confines of these deadlines.
the course he is offered a graduate job at the He enjoys being able to stop and start studying
university studying Robotics and Artificial whenever he wants, and likes the satisfaction
Intelligence. of completing and doing well in assignments –
which all count toward his final grade.

The knowledge Damesh is gaining helps him

86 87

to start making some small changes in his

department – which are noticed and praised by
Isla: an independent
his seniors. This decreases his workload and
gives him more time to study for his final exam
– for which there is an increasing amount of
Isla is an intelligent girl with a great drive
work as his foundation of knowledge grows day
for success. She loves learning and going to
by day. Since Damesh must gain an accredited school, however the school she attends cannot
qualification he is signed up to take a proctored teach her everything she needs to know as
examination in real-life. Luckily, since he works it lacks well-educated staff. Occasionally the
in a large city he is able to find an assessment school is visited by volunteers from charitable
centre relatively close to his work. Damesh takes organisations who are impressed by Isla’s
the exam, passes well and is therefore qualified curiosity and ability to grasp new subjects
to start implementing some new changes to quickly. One volunteer – Nwana – is on her
the business – which he has been working on year abroad doing research, but regularly
as practical examples alongside his course completes online courses and tells Isla that
“Seeing the to aid his understanding. Seeing the effects they helped her get into university. Isla does
not have her own computer, yet she does know
effects of of these changes motivates Damesh to study
of an internet café in a nearby village, which
these changes another course and work harder at improving his
she visits that very evening.
motivates department’s performance.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Damesh to study Damesh continues to receive increased

Isla knows vaguely how to use a computer,
another course responsibility and is given a pay rise. Due to the
yet does not have an email account, let alone
and work harder positive benefits he is seeing from MOOCs – of
money to pay for any sort of accreditation.
at improving his She sets up her email account, and uses the
which he was initially sceptical and frustrated
department’s information provided by Nwana to search out
– he continues to study and eventually learns
things she wishes to learn about. Isla finds
performance.” enough to write his own business strategy
a lot of the good courses are in English and
which is accepted for a start-up loan. Damesh
decides to enrol on a free English language
is able to leave his job which he was finding de-
course first to improve her language skills. She
motivating, and start work on his own company.
improves fast, and thoroughly enjoys the online
webcam discussions – through which she is
able to practice her English in actual speech.
She practices her reading skills through taking
additional courses, and her writing skills through
discussion forums which teach her to convey
her ideas clearly with the use of grammar.

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“Alongside her
English, Isla
Alongside her English, Isla learns about
geography, ecology and zoology. As she is
Bill: a lifelong
learns about
young, she has picked up English quickly and
it is now approaching fluency. She is amazed
ecology and at all she has learnt online and thinks back
Bill is an ex-professional research scientist,
zoology.” to Nwana. Isla decides to write a letter to a
having retired in order to spend more
similar organisation – armed with her English time with his family. Having only recently
skills and growing knowledge of the world – to developed his digital skills, Bill is keen to
try and secure a job or placement working in re-kindle his passion for learning, which he
conservation. She uses her digital literacy skills has re-discovered by reading articles on the
to attach a video of herself, her life and her internet. Bill reads the news online each day
aspirations and links the organisation to her and from this, he has found several blogs
impressive online portfolio. The organisation – which are of interest to him.
above all – values commitment to their cause
Bill uses an online search engine to find out if
and it is clear that Isla demonstrates this.
there is a more structured way to pursue his
Knowing of her situation, she is sponsored
learning. He finds that universities have recently
and flown to the UK where the operations are
started to set up online versions of their existing
based. She is given a position as a conservation
courses and is surprised to find that his old
researcher and gets to travel round the world,
university in America is one of the leading
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

occasionally approaching villages similar to her

providers. Having had a few friends on English
own and showing them the value of learning
courses – which he always found interesting –
through technology. Isla even manages to
he enrols on an introduction to poetry course
secure a grant from the organisation to provide
to test it out. Bill enjoys the materials which
her own village with several computers –
are provided for him, however he feels that the
through which many children like herself are able
strongest part of the course is the fact that other
to learn and develop their education.
learners provide recommendations of other
texts. He investigates some of these, and finds
he is starting to develop a personal taste of the
sort of poetry he enjoys.

Eventually Bill starts to participate in the

analysis of some popular poetry himself and
even makes some recommendations himself
to other learners. This prompts him to try a
‘hangout’ – where he discusses the course texts

90 91
via webcam sessions with other like-minded
people. Soon, Bill becomes confident in his
knowledge of poetry. Having kept a journal for
most of his adult life, he decides to try and write Online course provider
some poetry of the more interesting moments. Any platform which provides online courses to
He releases these via the discussion forum and learners. The major ones include Alison, EdX,
is happy that they are well received. One user Udacity, Coursera and FutureLearn.
in particular very much likes the style of Bill’s
College credit
writing, and so he views their online profile
Gained through completion of an online
to see their other interests. To Bill’s surprise,
course which offers this option. Can be used
the student is currently enrolled at university
at participating universities to count toward
studying colour chemistry – the academic
your actual degree. Available on a very limited
field Bill used to do research in. Through this
number of courses.
discovery, Bill is able to explain what the life of
a researcher is like and give the young student Course materials
some advice with regard to deciding on his These are materials provided by the course
potential future career. In return, the young provider which will give you the information
student is able to explain the new advances in you need to study effectively and complete
colour chemistry which he has learned through assignments. They may be links to documents,
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

his course and recommends some relevant e-books or journal articles.

MOOCs in the area. Bill has gained a newfound cMOOC
passion for poetry, which he practices as a These MOOCs are focused on learner-generated
hobby and is also able to comfortably keep up content and are less linear in structure than a
to date with his old career path. typical online course. Numbers of learners are
also usually smaller.
Digital literacy
This is a measure of how experienced you are
with different aspects of digital technology
such as: creating an online profile, accessing
documents, setting up email accounts, making
online payments etc.
Discussion forum
An area of an online course where members are
able to discuss topics they are having trouble

92 93
with, or give help to other learners. These Statement of accomplishment
forums can also be used to arrange online or A non-validated certificate which you will receive
real-life study groups and enhance the social upon completion of an online course. This can
aspect of the course. be downloaded and printed at your own leisure.
MOOC Study group
A ‘Massively Open Online Course’. These A group of individuals all participating in
courses take place online, often with thousands the same course who have chosen to study
of students and are open to anyone. MOOCs together. These can be either online or offline –
are usually free, though it is possible to pay for in which case the meeting of the group is usually
certification of course completion. determined online in discussion forums.
Online portfolio Transcript
This is an account you can set up in order to This is a representation of all your module
provide a representation of your skills, CV, grades for a particular course. Transcripts are
academic history and any online courses you available for online courses, but also exist for
may have taken. traditional courses and can be displayed online
PDF document in an online portfolio.
A type of file which represents documents in UCAS application
the same format regardless of the software or This is the UK’s university application system.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

hardware you are viewing it on. PDF documents It typically involves detailing your financial
are commonly used to share online files found in requirements for a student loan, writing a
MOOCs’ course resources. personal statement and providing a transcript of
Peer-assessment your current grades and predicted final grades.
This type of assessment is done by course Validated certificate
learners themselves. If you are involved in peer- Certificate which gives further credibility to your
assessment, you will assess another learner’s completion of an online course through identity
work according to a mark scheme, and have verification. Final assessments are also done
your own work assessed by another learner in through webcam and monitored by a proctor.
return. Only available in certain online courses.
Social media xMOOC
Includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and These MOOCs are linear in structure and focus
Google Plus. These websites can be used to on educator-generated content. They are most
connect with other individuals on the course and similar to a typical University module.
establish your own online presence as a learner.

94 95
About the authors the Open Educational Resources policy. Neil
has given a number of keynote talks at UK and
international events, and is a regular speaker at
Neil Morris conferences.
Neil Morris is Chair of Educational Technology,
James Lambe
Innovation and Change in the School of
James Lambe works as a Research Officer
Education and the Director of Digital Learning at
in the Digital Learning Team at the University
the University of Leeds, UK, reporting directly to
of Leeds, UK, having recently graduated with
the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Student Education.
a BSc Neuroscience degree from Leeds. He
He is a National Teaching Fellow, and has
is currently involved in a number of projects
won a number of national awards for teaching
researching the impact of technology enhanced
excellence. Neil has a research background in
learning on students in Higher Education. One of
neuroscience and current research interests
James’ interests is online learning – particularly
in educational technology, online learning and
MOOCs – which are an important new area in
blended learning. He has conducted a number
the expansion of education. James has enrolled
of published research studies on the impact of
on a number of online courses as part of the
mobile technologies on student learning and
research for this guide. In addition to these
engagement and he is the co-author of Study
projects, James creates e-books and other
Skills Connected, a successful textbook on
online learning resources for the Digital Learning
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

using technology effectively to enhance learning

Team, as well as talking to students in schools
(Palgrave Macmillan). Neil has led a number of
about the uses and benefits of technology
strategic technology projects at Leeds, including
in their curriculum. James’ future aspiration
MOOCs for FutureLearn, lecture capture,
is to work in the business sector supporting
Open Educational Resources, Virtual Learning
technological advancements in Higher
Environment and student response handsets.
In his current role, Neil has strategic and
operational responsibility for the Digital Learning
Team, which is responsible for the university’s
iTunes U site and delivering MOOCs for the
FutureLearn platform. Neil has authored a
number of strategies and policies for the
university, including the Digital Strategy for
Taught Student Education, the Blended Learning
Strategy, the MOOC vision and strategy and

96 97
About Palgrave For more information on Palgrave Macmillan
Higher Education please visit: www.palgrave.

Macmillan Higher com.

Education For more information about Palgrave

Study Skills resources, please visit www.
Palgrave Macmillan Higher Education is a
global academic publisher serving educators
and students, principally at university level. As
well as publishing some of the most successful
academic textbooks in print, we produce
widely-accessible e-books and sophisticated,
interactive e-learning suites. Our products
offer a distinctive contribution to learning and
teaching and we are known for our work in study
skills, the social sciences, humanities, business
and engineering.
© Neil Morris and James Lambe (2014), Studying a MOOC, Palgrave Macmillan

Creative thinking and strategic planning

pervade all aspects of Palgrave Macmillan
Higher Education’s publishing. Our books and
other learning solutions are built on authentic
relationships with students, academics and
professionals, subject and market expertise, and
a respect for our customers’ intelligence and

98 99
Wherever and however you study, these Palgrave Study
Skills titles will help you get the most out of your subject.









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