In search of learning objectives (#eduMOOC)

I’m still pretty new to MOOCs. I look to the MOOC as a way to participate in a community of practice and to encourage me to learn more about the subject of the MOOC. 

Being a novice MOOCer, I find that I go back to the weekly resource page of the MOOC in search of direction. In this age of way too much information, I see the role of educator changing from a disseminator of information to one of a curator of information. I look to the creators of the MOOC as curators who help guide my learning path.

Since the MOOC has many participants, like myself, who have spent most of their education in a didactic setting (being lectured at), I struggle with too much freedom in the sea of too much information. Lost because I don’t even know where to start, or what the purpose is. I’m looking for a scaffold to help me on my journey. 

It occurs to me that the scaffold I am looking for are learning objectives. Not the old fashioned behaviourist learning objectives (we all remember SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely), rather I’m looking for learning objectives from a complexity science perspective – that is, something that helps constrain my exploration without containing it.

So, rather than learning objectives that start with “After completing this module, learners will be able to …”, something more like: “In this week, learners may choose to explore: …”. 

Of course, the introductory sentence is the easy part. If behaviourist objectives are SMART, what do objectives need to be to be appropriate for a MOOC? That is, what are the guidelines for creating MOOC learning objectives?

My thoughts are that MOOC learning objectives should be:

  • Focused. LO should help learners focus their way through the vast amounts of information available.
  • Open. LO should be open to multiple interpretations, such that learners can find their own “answers”. 
  • Accessible. LO need to be accessible to participants with varying levels of experience in the topic.

Using these guidelines, and the content on the week 1 resource page, I came up with the following learning objectives:

In this week, learners may choose to explore:

  • The history of online learning
  • The themes that are emerging from current events in online learning
  • How social media can be used as a tool to keep current with online learning developments

So, my questions to you are:

  • What features do you think are important in MOOC learning objectives (assuming you think they are important)?
  • What learning objectives would you set for week 1?

17 Comments on In search of learning objectives (#eduMOOC)

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    I don't know how I stand yet about learning objectives and MOOCs.  I suspect my answer varies depending upon whether I've got on my learner hat, my facilitator hat, or my instructional designer hat.   I can say that when my colleage @hollyrae and I tried to do a MOOC about PLNs, we settled on the idea of  "Challenges"  in lieu of objectives.  They provided some structure but left much open to exploration and discovery.   I'll write more about it in my blog as a response to your post.  :)    In the interim, feel free to check out     You know – I was thinking about trying something similar again but calling it something like  "Getting Your MOOC On!"   Wanna collaborate?

    • I think collaboration would be awesome. What did you have in mind? The concept of PLNs is new to me, but I've always been a pretty independent learner. It is the filtering of too much information that I struggle with.


      • Well – how about we do a little metaMOOCing  – a mooc about moocs – specifically, aimed at developing skills to supporting one's moocing…   could be fun. :)   Weekly tech challenges to support development of a particular tech or skill (e.g.  a specific tool for filtering content or a specific strategy for filtering content).   Perhaps we could even get the UIS COLRS group to throw in with us LOL (because right about now they're probably saying 'gee, this was a fantastic, and not too overwhelming idea!"
        Something to think about.  :)

  2. Many thanks to Rebecca for starting this discussion and to everyone who commented.  I am beginning to feel slightly more oriented towards this MOOC after reading these posts, and boy have I got a bunch of interesting-sounding links to explore.  If you are interested in a grad student's perspective on her first MOOC, I invite you to follow my blog at

  3. I think that  in a MOOC like this, learning objectives are to be choosen by the learners, not by the designers. I like very much the way you put objectives "In this week (or in this MOOC), I would like to explore (…) [and connect with people that share a similar objective]". What would be needed is an agreement for all of us to publish our objectives in this way in the wiki or etherpad or a Google Doc, so that it is easier for others to join in. Saying "I am intersted in the topic of mobile learning" is too general; putting it in terms of learning objectives may help us all. So here is one of mine – I'll try putting in the rest on the etherpad… 
    "In this MOOC, I would like to explore revolultionary future alternatives to the present ftf and online universities, connect with people that share that interest, and then start the design of that future institution…. right now"

  4. In other MOOCs I've participated in, there were maybe 50 people of the 2000 taking it for academic credit.  For those people there were clear learning objects and class assignments requirements which were posted for everyone to read.  Some of the credit students also chose to share their completed assignments after they were graded.  
    One of the problems professors have with posting readings is that when it comes to online learning, the relevancy of a link that's even 3 years old is challenged.  Everyone is scanning the web and brings to the class the links they consider have merit and then a discussion can be started challenging the information, adding to it or making comments about how it might apply in practice. 
    In previous MOOCs I've participated in, there's been a lot of backchannel chatter in the live sessions which among other things provided links to articles relevant to what was being presented.

  5. I am just starting into #eduMOOC and distant learning with some courses from @One in California online. Something that I have found helpful to me and perhaps to add to the discussion is this rubric from California State University, Chico about online learning course that I used in one of my classes:
    Rubric for Online Instruction by California State University, Chico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
    Harry Guess

  6. Thank you for directing me to this blog. Like so many others, I too am new to "moocs" and am slowly emerging from the overwhelmed state. Setting goals and objectives is very important to narrow one's focus. There is just too much out there to grasp it all, but it's good to know you can come back to things as your objectives expand.
    I just finished my training through Quality Matters in applying the QM rubric and as a peer reviewer. Quality Matters (QM) is a faculty-centered, peer review process that is designed to certify the quality of online and blended courses.
    Goals and objectives were at the center of this training and now I am reviewing all of the online and blended courses I teach to make sure there is alignment and focus. What a rewarding and exhilerating process.
    Thank you for sharing your suggested objectives for this mooc. Right on target.

  7. For the most part, I will evaluate my own objectives at the end of the course.  What drove me to participate and what type of interactions took place are two areas that I will focus on.  Also, did I connect with anyone that will likely continue beyond #edumooc 2011?  These are issue that matter to me most when working in a MOOC.

  8. Hi Rebecca,
    Your post resonated with me, because my first thought after viewing the Week 1 page was: this is just a bunch of links – and most of them are quite general: not a specific blog post, but an entire blog; not a specific article, but an entire journal; etc.
    I was reflecting on evaluating online courses in development, and how if I were evaluating that as a weekly unit, I would be looking for some measurable learning objectives, and some resources, activities and assessments that are all in alignment with the objectives. Well obviously, this MOOC is a different environment.
    Ok, so let's say the learners can determine what to do with the given links and resources (objectives/activities), what they want to get out of the unit/learning experience (outcomes), and how to measure their own success (assessments). So that part is up to me. Still, in light of the (extremely broad) topic: Online Learning Today, the resources and links given are quite broad and daunting. Perhaps it is my predilection toward an older style of learning (?) but shouldn't there be something more specific or sifted down by the curator(s) – summarization of a current picture of online learning, highlighting certain aspects (legal, technical, pedagogical, administrative, global, barriers, successes, etc.)
    Anyway – I've also been on the "measurable objectives" rampage lately! Here's a link to a slideshare I used recently for a presentation on measurable objectives and alignment;
    Happy Edumoocing!
    Clark Shah-Nelson

    • Hi Clark,

      Your comments are interesting because measurable was something that I most definitely did not focus on. In a lot of ways, I wanted to see some learning objectives just so I had some idea of what the designers were thinking when they choose the links. I too found that the links were just too broad – if perhaps they were specific articles, then I could read one and comment on it, but with just a listing of publications, it didn't "curate" or "filter" enough for me. Alas, I'm stuck wondering what is that that I"m suppose to learn this week – that is, what did the designers of the course hope that I would achieve this week?  I still don't know :(



      • I have similar concerns. I need direction. I'm just surfing and enjoying the parts that 'talk' to me. But how do I interact and go ahead ? Don't have a clue.
        Theo Remedios, India

  9. Thanks for qualtifying my feelings about L.O.  I too am farily new to MOOCs and feel somewhat lost and overwhelmed.  I have been taught and trained that the SMART method, replacing Madeline Hunter and others, is the new perfect standard and that nothing else is acceptable.  In fact, it's the main part of my evaluation as an educator.  I don't agree with it entirely, but that's what many of us educators are forced into.  These decisions are made by those with better titles.
    It's exciting for me to participate with others in this relatively new medium, carving our way through unknown territory.  One thing I have told myself is that it's OK to stumble with these new ideas, disagree, or make my own meaning.  I think that's another thing that is hard to accept.
    About your L.O… I think you have a great basis for learning.   I would add one more open-ended objective for myself:  I need to evaluate where I think I am on the continuum of the huge topic of online learning.  I plan to use other blogs and posts as a reference for myself.  
    Thanks for the discussion starter!  

    • Thanks James, I think you have a great objective, and I may even add that one to my list … to figure where I am on the continuum – although for me my focus is on mobile learning, so perhaps I'll look at where mobile learning fits within the online learn continuum.
      thanks for the thoughts!

  10. Rebecca, I was drawn to your blog, because the same questions are swimming around in my mind this morning. This is my first MOOC experience, and I find myself searching for a purpose to guide my exploration. 
    One learning objective I'd set for week one would be to locate and use several channels of communication in this MOOC. I am just starting out, but my sense is that forming groups that share information and expertise is where the value of this experience will be for me. 

    • Hi Shannon,

      I think that is a great learning objective. I've set one to explore some of the tools that were new to me. I had never heard of Diigi (or Dingo or whatever that one is) – it seems like a variant on google wave or a wiki to me – but alas, I digress. I think there is important learning in just figuring out how to learn in this large medium of online learning.



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