Recording a MOOC on System Validation: Some Experiences

Recently I visited Halmstad University. Together with Mohammad Mousavi, we recorded a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the subject of system validation. The MOOC goes with the book “Modeling and Analysis of Communicating Systems” by Jan Friso Groote and Mohammad Mousavi.

In this post, I plan to share some observations based on our MOOC recording experience.

1. The available budget and environment largely dictates the end-result. In order to design a nice and attractive MOOC, a lot of time is spent on designing the MOOC, splitting up the topics that need to be covered into compact recordings, and finding attractive material to show in the MOOC. The amount of time that can be invested is constrained by the budget that is available. In our case we were fortunate to have the help of a student in designing the material. Second, the budget and environment constrain the available recording facilities, and the amount of time spent on recording and editing the lectures. All lectures in our MOOC are the product of a single take (which does not mean that a single take was enough to every lecture).

2. At least 3 takes are needed to record a single video. Our experience is that, although you prepare your words in detail, in the first take you are searching for the right phrasing and the correct pace to cover the material. You might expect that the second take is better, but in practice it often turned out to be worse than the first. Typically, the third take was one which was reasonably good, and that could be used to produce the video for the MOOC.

3. You can record at most 2 lectures a day. We have been recording lectures with two different lecturers; our setup was to have a single lecturer covering a single topic in multiple videos. When recording these lectures, experience shows that after about 4 takes the quality of recordings of a single lecturer is dramatically reduced. Therefore, most of the time both Mohammad and me managed to record a single lecture every day (with one of us being able to do two on an exceptional day). Recording a single take felt to be about as exhausting as teaching an hour in front of a classroom audience for both of us.

4. It is hard to come up with appealing graphics. The topics we are covering are highly theoretical in nature. Depending on the level of detail you want to cover, visually attractive material is hard to come by. In our case, we mainly relied on examples and case studies in the techniques were used in order to get nice visuals. The theory is still covered in pretty theoretical slides, including some formulas and graphs. I wonder how others go about covering such theoretical material in a MOOC setting (of course, we could argue that you should not cover such material, but hey… we did anyway); if you’ve got nice ideas or pointers please respond in the comments!

5. The business model for MOOC hosting is somewhat elitist and unfair. Larger MOOC companies only host course from large world-leading institutes that contribute a large sum.
Smaller MOOC companies either ask for a huge amount per course and per edition or
often are not as visible as the larger companies. We are currently considering Canvas as a free MOOC hosting with fair visibility and quality.

The end-result still needs to be edited, and worked into the MOOC such that it can be published online. After we have done so, I will write about it again. In the mean-time I am going to test-drive the recordings in my course on system validation at TU Delft to (partly) flip the classroom. Also, I plan to discuss what I would like to do differently when recording other MOOCs in a subsequent blog post.