Instructional Design in xMOOC

By Pablo Alejandro Olguín Aguilar

Have you thought about how easy it is today to take a course and learn something new? We owe a large part of this to the Internet, the source that allows us to access information from almost anywhere in the world. Learning from courses offered online is becoming increasingly common and the range of such courses has grown considerably as a result of multiple factors, such as technological development, the demand for continuous training, and movements that promote people joining social digital media.

Among the courses that offer free access and are currently considered to be the best option for informal education are MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses), which, as their name indicates, are:

  • Massive: allowing hundreds of students to register for a course.
  • Open: offering free registration for those who don’t require certification and payment only from those who wish to receive a certificate for their work.
  • Online: providing instruction through the Internet in the asynchronous transfer mode.

These courses began as a response to the proposal for connectivism from Siemens and Downes; however, today, they have evolved considerably and there are many design variants. The two most common types of courses of this type are denominated xMOOC and cMOOC.

xMOOC courses are similar to traditional e-learning options, in which the content is presented in a structured way, with a specific start date and end date for the course, and evaluations based on multiple-choice exams or co-evaluation exercises. They are usually courses in which the content is self-taught, so there is no tutor following what each participant is doing. These courses are offered by such platforms as Coursera, Miriadax, Edx and MéxicoX.

cMOOC courses, with the “c” at the beginning referring to the courses being based on connectivism, have a teaching-learning methodology based on the interaction between participants as they carry out activities together and build knowledge collectively through Internet tools.

As can be seen, each type of MOOC has different characteristics and it is up to end users to decide which type they prefer, according to their particular needs and learning style. Have you every stopped to think what is behind an xMOOC? In this question, I am not referring to the platform on which the course is given, but the team who designs and develops the course into its final version on the platform, ready to be used by the learner.

Behind every xMOOC – depending on the educational institution – there is a production cell made up of a group of specialists responsible for developing the course from an instructional model. This model establishes the methodology, structure, type of educational resources, evaluation techniques and instruments, and dates on which the course will be held, among other necessary aspects for an effective course development and offering.

Behind every xMOOC there is a production cell made up of a group of specialists responsible for developing the course from an instructional model.

Instructional design (ID) is based on an in-depth analysis of different factors, such as the characteristics of the target public, the type of content to be presented, the context in which it will be given, the educational trends which are being followed, the teaching strategies to be used, the digital technology being selected and, by no means least of all, the platform on which the course is to be presented.

There are different models of instructional design, such as ADDIE, Dick and Carey’s, Gagné and Briggs’, or ASSURE, among many others, which define a series of stages and criteria that are used to design educational resources. However, authors such as Chiappe (2008) believe that these models require adaptations in response to current ID needs. Despite this, the main stages to be considered in the process of instructional design and that can be found across the different models are:

  1. Analysis
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Offering
  5. Evaluation

Instructional design focuses on the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values in the students, through a well-structured course in which there must be a balance between:

  1. The content developed by experts
  2. The educational strategies, trends, techniques and aspects
  3. The technological tools, potentialities, limitations and considerations

In other words, it is what authors such as Mishra and Koehler (2006) consider to be TPCK (Technological pedagogical content knowledge), a frame of reference that promotes a balance between technological aspects, pedagogical criteria and content relevance as a function of 21st century education.

Instructional design focuses on the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values in the students.

So, who is in charge of instructional design? Usually there is an instructional design specialist responsible for guiding the entire process. Even though there are institutions in which the analysis and generation of the design are carried out by a specialist in educational architecture, a course is developed by instructional designers, graphic designers, audiovisual producers and web programmers. The dissemination and evaluation are carried out in conjunction with the technology team.

To ensure that xMOOC achieve their objective, whatever the content, duration or platform, they must be based on a well-developed instructional design, focused on the end user in accordance with current technology and advances in educational research, in order to assure an innovative, dynamic, effective learning experience for the user.

Whoever is responsible for instructional design must be an educational actor with a multidisciplinary profile who can help students learn to learn, with a high level of digital know-how and understanding of digital tools, and the capacity to implement them using pedagogical criteria. The person must also have communication skills to work in a team with other specialists and a sense of innovation, responsibility and commitment in order to generate new ideas and contribute to the common goal of the team: providing a quality course that complies with established objectives.

About the author:

Pablo Alejandro Olguín Aguilar has a Master’s in Educational Research and a Bachelor’s in Education, with a specialization in educational technology. He is currently an instructional designer and teaching consultant in the Department of Teaching-Learning Innovation and Design of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Monterrey.