Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Lessons from MOOCS: Video Lectures and Peer Assessment

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Lessons from MOOCS: Video Lectures and Peer Assessment

Article excerpt


What have professors learned from Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)? The MOOC course format burst on to the higher education scene in 2012, "The Year of the MOOC," according to the New York Times (Pappano, 2012). Since that time growth in students, courses, and university partners has been phenomenal (Dhawal, 2013). Three major MOOC plat forms (Coursera and edX founded in 2012, and Udacity founded in 2011) have been joined in an increasingly crowded field of providers. Coursera alone reported enrollment of 22,232,448 students, from 190 countries, and across 571 courses by January 2014 (Coursera, 2014).

Oxford Dictionaries (n.d.) defines a MOOC as "A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people." This paper uses the term MOOC in the popular sense to refer to the xMOOC, or "broadcast" MOOC (as distinct from the cMOOC or connectivist MOOC).

"These (xMOOCs) offered on university-based platforms are modelled on traditional course materials, learning theories and higher education teaching methods. For example, they usually are organized around lectures and quiz-type assessment methods. Also these courses typically use little distributed content that's available on the Web outside the platform. Most course content is pre-recorded video lectures which are posted on the courses' home page" (Morrison, 2013). These archetypical course formats will undoubtedly blend and evolve into different varieties in the future, such as synchronous massive online courses (SMOCS) and distributed open collaborative courses (DOCCs) (Played on, 2013).


This paper focuses not on the MOOC movement, but on the practical lessons learned by professors in their role as teachers in higher education. The lessons were gleaned from (1) reports of the experiences of MOOC teachers and learners, (2) the author's experience completing several MOOCs as a learner, and (3) the author's experience as a teacher who incorporated MOOC features into more traditional online and face-to-face courses. The MOOC "lessons" are contrasted with face-to-face and "mainstream" online courses (Johnston, 2014), which have also been called SPOCs, or small online paid-for (private) courses (Playdon, 2013).

A number of support people and professors have shared their "lessons learned" from creating and teaching MOOCs, including those from Vanderbilt (Bruff, 2013), the University of London (Grainger, Barney, 2013), the University of Wisconsin (2013). MOOC-like innovations in video, for example, can be used to "bring the investments made by MOOCs to the benefit of a wide range of teachers and students" (Duhring, 2013). A Wall Street Journal "report card" emphasized the role of interaction and engagement in the success of MOOCs (Fowler, 2013).

"Lesson learned" discussed in this paper, from MOOCs and as applied to "traditional" courses, include (1) the role of video lectures to deliver content, in lieu of the textbook or live lectures, and (2) the use of peer assessments to provide learner feedback and evaluation.


The defining characteristic of a MOOC is the use of video to deliver content, at the exclusion of a textbook. MOOCs exclude a textbook to maintain openness. The use of video lectures frees students from obtaining and paying for a textbook. Often a textbook is recommended, but not required to complete a MOOC.

MOOC video lectures are typically relatively brief (5 to 20 minutes). Although the "production values" vary, there appears to be a minimum level of quality that is a benchmark for MOOC video. Typically MOOC video lectures will, at a minimum, feature a video recording of the professor (a "talking head"), interspersed or overlaid (such as picture-in-picture) with presentation slide graphics and text.

A higher quality level may use a "green screen" to overlay the instructor video onto graphics or presentation text. …

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