Does a MOOC need a needs analysis? #change11

Does a MOOC need a needs analysis? #change11

This post was inspired by George Siemens post on Who are MOOCs for? Confused personal thoughts. In his post, George mentions that in creating MOOCs he hasn't really considered who the courses are for? Rather, he puts the course out there and allows anyone interested to join in.

That got me wondering, do we need to do a needs analysis, and what the implications are of not doing one? I think that bringing together experts for conversations is definitely a valuable activity, but if you haven't thought about your target audience, then how do you know what level to talk to? That got me thinking that, if we don't do a needs analysis or at least think about who our target audience is, then aren't we just presenting to ourselves? Or clones of ourselves? That is, we are expecting that the audience shares the same characteristics as we have ourselves. Might that be why those who are successful at MOOCs are highly independent learners? Because the hosts of MOOCs are also high independent learners and the courses are built without intentional consideration for the target audience?

In the first MobiMOOC paper (being published as part of the Conference Proceedings at mLearn), we mention a desire to see more participation from BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as well as sub-sahara Africa. If we really want to see more participation from these areas, should be not be involving people from these areas in the design of our MOOCs? Perhaps bringing in some collaborators from the areas we wish to see more participation? The involvement at an organizational and design level will most definitely make the MOOC more dynamic and interesting – perhaps even make it more attractive to people from different cultures and from different socioeconomic classes too!

George – thanks for kicking off the blogging. I'm happy to be MOOCing again 🙂

6 Replies to “Does a MOOC need a needs analysis? #change11”

  1. Thanks for this, Rebecca.  I picked up on this line from George's post "It has dawned on me that MOOCs, and openness in general, are not necessarily for those who are trying to work within the existing education system."  
    Similarily, I see moocs as a challenge to the traditional design process, as you've noted.  Do we need a needs analysis (at the beginning as per ADDIE), or as we go along through the delivery of the course or is it needed at all?
    If there is a 'design' of a mooc (and I think there is a design, somewhat), how much design power is in the hands of the moderators and/or the participants?  Same for the implementation, how much is moderator driven and/or participant driven?  Do we need evaluation in a mooc? If so, who evaluates and on what basis and how does it influence future designs, if at all?
    I don't have answers to these questions, though I welcome this opportunity to consider them.
    Cheers 🙂

  2. In response to Glen, I think that the potential population of learners is always large, regardless of the modality of teaching your course (whether it's f2f, online, a MOOC, a seminar, a webinar or anything in between). If you are offering an art class in a college environment for example, your population is potentially in the thousands (my university has over 15,000 undergraduates for example) but that doesn't mean that you don't design a class with a specific population in mind.  The needs of those doing fine/studio arts are different from those of the art historians, and the needs of these two arts groups are different from those of the management, or of the physics major.
    Learning objectives and target populations are only two of the many criteria one must think about when deciding on a course design and those two are a must in any course design, otherwise it's not a course – it's just people talking. This of course is just my opinion 🙂
    I wrote a little more about this on my own blog. I was suprised that MOOCs didn't have that forethough, but then again, not everyone thinks about things in the same manner, which is what makes life interesting and debates possible 🙂

  3. It's an interesting problem, I think. You're right that things like teacher roles and course design have to come from who the learners are and the situation…and it's a nice idea to try and target certain people from certain areas, but with 1000s of learners signed-up it places a lot of restrictions on targeting. What are the limits of intention that come from having a 'course' with such a large population of learners? 

    1. Hi Glen and Apostolos,
      Sorry for the delayed reply – its been a long week. Although the potential population is larger, as someone putting a “course” together, do you not have some sense of who might be interested. Once you have that, finding out what types of things they might need / want could really help with user retention. One of the challenges with MOOCs is the “big” number that is being tracked is the registrations. I think just as useful are the number of people that are still around after the second week.
      The challenge, as I see it, is figuring out how to put in enough structure to support conversations without too much structure that stifles it.

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