How we wrote the Forensic Psychology MOOC - Part 3

Lessons learned

Professor Graham Pike

Professor of Forensic Cognition

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It should be obvious, but worth saying nonetheless, that there is a big difference between MOOCs and formal, accredited modules. Having produced both, I have to say that being free of benchmark statements, external accreditation and meeting the demands of closely monitored specifications made producing the MOOC an amazing and creative experience. But it also bought home the importance of meeting those other demands on our formal qualifications.

Those demands limit, to some extent, the lessons that can be learned from MOOC production and applied to formal production. One lesson that cannot be overstated is the importance of research/teaching synergy. It would just not be possible, and certainly not desirable, for an academic to produce a MOOC outside their own area of research expertise. There’s just not the time and too much to be gained from having a research-active academic’s knowledge and connections. Straying from one’s comfort zone is possible when writing for formal teaching material, but only because there is more time to get up to speed. Cut production time for formal modules and the process will become more reliant on having research-active academics that can hit the ground running.

There are lessons to be learned regarding the use of digital first strategies. Perhaps the biggest hurdle we faced in making the Forensic Psychology MOOC is that we started before FutureLearn had decided on what platform they would build, and that the nature of the platform and the content it could handle changed many times during production. This meant that we were constantly having to limit design and constrain choices in order to meet platform demands, and there is no doubt at all that this meant that pedagogy and creativity all too often played a distant second fiddle to practicality. There is definitely a lesson to be learned here about putting content first.

Overall though, the experience of making the MOOC was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding I’ve had working at the OU. A large part of this was because I was part of a competent, enthusiastic team, and that is another lesson to be learned.