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Report: MOOC Instructors Need More Support

Providing more support for instructors may improve the student experience in massive open online courses (MOOCs), according to a study conducted by researchers from Penn State and the University of Central Florida.

The researchers interviewed 14 current and former instructors of MOOCs and discovered that only 4 of the 14 were interested in teaching MOOCs on a regular basis, according to a news report on the Penn State site. Of the remaining 10 instructors, two said they didn't want to teach another MOOC, four wanted to take a break, and another four "were concerned about the demands of teaching another course," according to the report.

One concern was the amount of work required to prepare a MOOC, which requires the instructor to write lessons and record video lectures in addition to their traditional teaching duties. One of the instructors told the researchers that it took 400 hours of work to prepare a single course.

Some instructors struggle during the implementation and feedback phases of a MOOC, according to the researchers. Instructors who are used to providing students with one-on-one guidance must adjust their expectations when teaching thousands of students in a MOOC. They also need new models and methods for measuring the success of a course since the traditional metric of measuring student retention rates doesn't apply to MOOCs, where 90 percent of students leave the course after two weeks, not necessarily because there's anything wrong with the course but because many people join MOOCs out of curiosity or to collect materials for study on their own time.

The study was conducted by Saijing Zheng, a doctoral candidate in information sciences and technology at Penn State; Pamela Wisniewski, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Central Florida; Mary Beth Rosson, associate dean of information sciences and technology at Penn State; and John M. Carroll, Distinguished Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State.

The researchers said they hope to use the information gathered through this study to improve support for MOOC instructors. "By improving support for the instructors and their collaborators, we may also improve the MOOC experience for students and other stakeholders," said Zheng.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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