MOOC Learning Platform Fosters Interaction for 400 Students


When the School of Library and Information Science at San José State University (SJSU SLIS) launched its first massive open online course (MOOC) in September 2013, instructors were ready to provide an interactive professional development experience for 400 MOOC enrollees, thanks to a team of technology experts who developed the MOOC’s learning platform. 

The learning platform was built to facilitate interaction between MOOC enrollees, instructors, and course assistants. Now that the 12-week not-for-credit course is underway, MOOC enrollees access the free, online course from across the globe, eager to learn about the Hyperlinked Library.

SJSU SLIS lecturer Kyle Jones was one of the key individuals responsible for creating the learning platform’s advanced functionality. Jones is an open source content management expert with more than 10 years of experience in WordPress design and administration.

Jones is also one of two MOOC instructors. The other instructor is Dr. Michael Stephens, an assistant professor at the SJSU information school. Jones and Stephens supervise course assistants, who serve as “participatory learning guides.” 

As the MOOC learning platform was developed, Jones modified its WordPress open source content management system to increase the social connections possible within the MOOC. The greater number and variety of interactions available to MOOC enrollees challenges them to expand their skill sets in participatory practices and envision what is possible when libraries and other information centers offer a participatory, interactive, user-centered environment.

“WordPress creates the foundation for each MOOC student to blog and participate in reflective learning,” said Jones. “However, the platform we created for the MOOC allows us to offer the connected experience Michael and I both strive for with our teaching. We’ve been thoroughly impressed with the significant amount of activity, interaction, and knowledge building that our MOOC platform has supported.”

SJSU SLIS graduate students worked with Jones over the summer to build the platform, run user experience tests, and develop the course’s badges program. They include MLIS student Margaret Jean Campbell, who said she enjoyed collaborating virtually with other team members to develop the MOOC.

“It was exciting to offer this additional learning experience to information school students,” said Jones. “The students gained hands-on experience building something tangible—something that will have a significant influence on a massive population of learners. I am proud of their contributions.”

According to Jones, the learning platform the students helped him develop is working well. “Rather than chasing technical bugs, I have been able to focus on teaching.”

After the MOOC ends on November 23, 2013, Stephens and Jones look forward to sharing lessons learned about the MOOC with other educators. They are also exploring opportunities to offer additional MOOCs in the future, providing free professional development opportunities for individuals around the world.

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