Instead of a MOOC, How About a SOOC?

This post was originally published on Heather Ross’s blog on October 3, 2012

There’s been a lot of talk about MOOCs lately. I’ve even written a couple of posts related to them here and here.

We were talking about them during a recent staff meeting and the term SOOC came out of my mouth. My boss said I should trademark it, but I’m not sure that A) someone else hasn’t already said or B) trademarking such a term would be in the spirit of what I’m advocating.

A SOOC is a “small open online course” (as opposed to the “massive open online course”) and I’m currently building one for our centre. The course is for instructors who are new at teaching online or interested in getting started, along with some coverage on teaching in a hybrid environment. The course is being built in Blackboard because that’s the LMS that we use (so instructors get practice using it and a chance to see what it’s like for students).

We have a system called Open Courseware that allows us to open some parts or all of a course to anyone who cares to look around, learn, and possibly participate in some fashion (although I don’t know of any wide-open courses that include discussions or other methods of communication for the general public).

This teaching online course will make use of Open Courseware and we’ll be opening up every part of the course, except for the discussion board, the synchronous session that we’ll be doing using Blackboard Collaborate and assignment dropbox. There are a number of videos of interviews that we shot of some faculty who have experience teaching online, providing their advice on a variety of related topics. These videos, the assigned readings, additional notes, discussion questions and the final reflective activity will all be open for anyone to see (I’ll post the link on this blog when the course launches next year). There are no assignments other than the discussions and reflective piece.

So, the bulk of the course materials are open, but the conversations are limited to the small group of registered participants, thus, I think of it as a SOOC.

I think that it would be possible to run some courses as both a SOOC and a MOOC at the same time if the MOOC used the model of participants providing the feedback to each other. Those registered in the SOOC would have the benefits of interacting with the instructor, being in a smaller, more manageable group and receiving credit for the course. Those in the MOOC will still have access to everything, a separate discussion board could be set up (although I think our ICT department might lose their minds at the logistics if we wanted to offer it through our current system) and could perhaps get some sort of letter or badge if they successfully complete it (in all honesty, I’m not sure how that would / should be gauged).

Anyway, there you have it, the SOOC.

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