Musings on developing and tutoring on a MOOC

In May 2013, I tutored on ALT’s, online course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) MOOC. I had developed the material for week 7 of the Association of Learning Technology’s ocTEL MOOC, which was focusing on ‘Supporting Learners with Tutor and Peer Communications’.

I was delighted that Nancy White, founder of Full Circle Associates, agreed to lead the weekly webinar. Nancy is a highly experienced online interaction designer, facilitator and coach for learning, teams and online communities and you may know her work through the book she has co-authored with Etienne Wenger and John Smith: Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. I have been lucky enough to host webinars by Nancy a number of times and to participate in the enlightening, deep debate and fun atmosphere that she creates.

One of the reasons I was interested in tutoring on a MOOC was to experience tutoring at scale. As I would have expected through previous experiences of participating (or not) in MOOCs, there had been natural attrition in the course but week 7 also coincided with a public holiday in the UK (where many of the participants were from) and it is likely these factors had an impact on (relatively) low numbers joining the webinar. Many people have engaged with the recording of the webinar since then, however, and I would highly recommend watching Nancy’s webinar if you have a moment: Nancy White’s ocTEL MOOC Week 7 webinar. It is a great example of an expert facilitator introducing complex concepts and weaving those in to the group discussion that she fosters and manages.

In the webinar, Nancy covered the impact of the contexts we teach and learn within, considering the ‘we, me, many’ – groups, individual, networks. Much of the discussion focused on how to move towards interaction and developing peer support online. Some of the participants described examples of courses they want to develop more peer-to-peer interaction and experiential learning within, sometimes in international contexts, and Nancy and the group came up with a range of suggestions that could help. These included:

  • Build the social structure/scaffolding directly
  • Offer less initial content
  • Pose key questions
  • Build in reflective practice
  • Check your assumptions about what and how
  • Harness serious games dynamics
  • Use peer review as a formal activity that can be used to develop peer support in a wider, less formal context
  • Provide opportunities for the learners to teach

Nancy White’s ocTEL MOOC Week 7 webinar

Here are some references provided by Nancy during the webinar:

You can access Nancy’s book with Etienne Wenger and John Smith at:


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