Building a MOOC

Preparing your “About this Course” page:  (See Example)

The following elements are needed to launch a course on edX.  Additional marketing elements (course video commercial; graphic images for the course) will be created in coordination with your MOOC production and marketing teams.

  • Course Title
  • Class Start and End dateedX Course Example
  • Estimated Time Commitment
  • Prerequisite Experience
  • Brief Course Description (146 chars. incl. spaces)
  • Full Course Description Text (120 words)
  • Course Staff Name/s and Title/s
  • Course Staff Photo/s (minimum 110 x 110 pixels)
  • Course Staff Biography text (120 words)
  • FAQ text (if any)
  • Email address for course

edX Online Course Components (See Example)

Syllabus in an edX MOOC is a snapshot of the course. It contains the requirements for successful completion, the required resources or materials, and the weekly schedule for the course that outlines the following:

  • Topics and learning objectives for the week
  • Content to be included in the week such as video, readings, links, etc.
  • Discussion board activity and questions
  • Assignments
  • Assessments (graded? Included in certificate completion?)
  • Other online components or activities, such as use of social media?

Developing your online content ( MOOC Production Timeline)

In an edX MOOC, online content is built as a series of Learning Sequences that replace what would be covered in a typical face-face Lecture, and is an interactive representation of the material. Learning Sequences may contain video segments,  presentations, readings, web pages with images/diagrams, links, assessments, activities, and other online content.

In determining the type of online content formats to include in a weekly learning sequence, some considerations:

  • What is the best way to express the content to be presented? Can the students be guided to discover relationships, or is it best to tell them?
  • What is the best media to use for the content? Formats include video, images, web pages, readings, etc.?
  • How do students consume content? (e.g. mobile, limited access to video, use of captions, etc.) Are there constraints to delivering the content?

Building the Course

The production team will work with faculty to determine the technology approach to use in building the draft syllabus, content, activities, assignments, assessments and completion criteria on the edX platform.

High level overview of the process:

  • Gather course content, and review copyright considerations. (Copyright considerations are often more strict for material used in MOOCs than they are for in-class presentations.)
  • Create and/or locate additional material. Video is usually a large component in MOOCs, and faculty will work with the production team to plan, record and develop short video segments for the online course.  The video team will provide guidance about the video approach and content to be included in video segments during the production planning process.
    • For online courses, video segments within learning sequences are typically brief, 3-5 minutes, not full lectures..
    • What is best represented in video? What other type of content could be included in the video?
  • Building weekly content and course components.  Following the draft syllabus, the production team will build the course components on edX using content provided by the faculty and TAs.
  • Building assignments and assessments. Faculty and their TAs will work with the production team to determine the type of assessment feature to use on edX, and to then develop the content of the assignment for the edX platform. Each assignment or assessment feature has specific requirements, and the team can guide faculty in the selection of the tools.
    • What assignments/assessment will be included in certificate completion?
    • When will the assignment be open to students during the course?
  • As the edX course is being built, faculty will be asked to periodically review the course components for accuracy, completeness and to assure that the MOOC meets course goals and overall quality considerations. Content needs to be complete before the MOOC launches.
  • Once the MOOC launches, a daily presence by staff is needed to respond to student questions and problems in the discussion boards and in-course wikis.

Alternatives to copyrighted course materials

The required readings for MOOC platforms, including edX, must be open access and free, which frequently means that traditional textbooks, books, and journal articles are not available to be used. In general, however, MOOCs rely less on outside reading than a traditional course.

How can instructors find alternative resources to the copyrighted materials used in traditional courses?

  • Work with the University Library to find out whether publishers will grant permissions for desired content.
  • The support team in the Library will help you locate alternative readings when necessary.
  • Design the course to work without substantial outside reading, if necessary


Course Assessments

Methods of assessment you have used in the past will likely need to be reshaped to work for the extremely large numbers of students in a typical MOOC (30,000-50,000, on average). Assessing in MOOCs is challenging, but instructors and course designers have come up with many creative and effective ways to address this challenge.


What creative ways can be included to enable students to demonstrate their learning?



Considerations for designing assessment processes include:

  • Manual grading of or response to quizzes, exams, or papers is not possible.
  • Thoughtfully designed machine-graded quizzes and exams can effectively assess student learning.
  • Self-graded and peer-graded writing assignments can offer opportunities for both substantive and reflective assessment.
  • To support peer-grading, you can set clear expectations for assignments and provide grading guidelines and rubrics.


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