Can we produce a MOOC like a television series?

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Edutainment takes elements of television series and incorporates them to a virtual course or MOOC with the aim of integrating different narrative logic, similar to the ones that keep us glued for hours to tv series.

Photo: Bigstock

Even though massive open online courses (MOOCs) are an innovative proposal regarding massiveness and ubiquity, I believe that a large part of their instructional design has been neglected. The schemes proposed by the first universities that launched these courses are constantly repeated, even though they are no longer the best fit nowadays since their information transmission methods respond to traditional classes.

Comparing the production of a MOOC to that of a television series is not too far removed from reality. Our experience, which is being shared in this article, puts edutainment to the test as a strategy for proposing narrative changes in the approach to a virtual course. The objective is to explore a new proposal to implement significant changes in massive course production that will truly point the way toward learning with creativity.

The idea is to take elements of television series and incorporate them gradually at the same pace as online student learning, integrating different narrative logic, similar to the ones that keep us glued for hours to series such as Game of Thrones, or any other television production on streaming platforms. This type of free-demand content generates debate, discussion and asks a question through penetration means such as mobile devices, online forums and social networks to reach a captive audience - interaction environments that any teacher would put to good use. It is a risk and a bid that we hope will bear fruit, such as well-informed audiences.

The premise is: “the class is a story”. With this in mind, the virtual course production team develops diverse strategies to ensure that the video lessons will break away from their traditional schemes and achieve change with a highly valuable communication piece.

Using the premise of “the class is a story,” the production team develops diverse strategies to ensure that the video lessons will break away from their traditional schemes and achieve change with a highly valuable communication piece.

This initiative began with research for a doctoral thesis. The findings of the study indicated that most people resort to old formats for transmitting information in video lessons, neglecting emotional elements and formal aspects, such as introducing the instructor in a close-up shot or who monotonously reads a teleprompter with no changes in the narration and no connections between the video lessons, or the reiterated use of PowerPoint with images that do not contribute to the narrative.

After the initial research phase, we decided to develop a structure that consists of dividing the video lessons into sections that correspond to part of a commercial fictional story, with elements of humor, twists, surprises, metaphors, analogies and real-life facts.

The main challenges of this type of implementations are related to adapting topics that are audio-visually difficult to display, given the nature of the academic discipline in question, to a televised format. Another major challenge is teacher training and personality. Not all teachers are willing to make so many narrative style changes and many do not have the time to participate in rehearsals and creativity sessions. However, some of them are open to moving outside their comfort zone and risking everything in favor of more innovative formats. This type of proposal also requires instructor training sessions, since the content for each class needs to undergo an audiovisual treatment in the formulation of scripts, rehearsals and staging, with a multidisciplinary team that includes multimedia graphic designers and television producers.

We developed a structure that consists of dividing the video lessons into sections that correspond to part of a commercial fictional story, with elements of humor, twists, surprises, metaphors, analogies and real-life facts.

Examples of changes in MOOC production are substituting the instructor’s introductory welcome video with a film trailer, see example here, replacing the image of the instructor with voice-off documentary sequences, dual camera recording and incorporating the highest possible number of support graphics, among others.

The aim of the second phase of this experiment is to improve class narrations drastically. This process requires more time and more extensive work sessions to achieve a balance between academic content and storytelling. The project as a whole will be launched in a three-year pilot on the Miriada X platform. The results of its effect on the audience that takes this type of courses will also be a topic for discussion and debate, not only regarding its repercussions in the teaching-learning process but also in massive course production and design processes.

What other ideas do you have about the production of MOOC video lessons? Would you like to know more about what we do and come into contact with new proposals? Would you like to receive feedback on similar projects of your own and work together as peers? The cards are on the table. The story is just beginning.  


About the author

Edna Manotas Salcedo (ednam@uninorte.edu.co) is a Ph.D. in Communication student. She currently coordinates the area of Digital Educational Material Design, at the Center for Teaching Excellence, Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia. Visit her Blog.