In this section, Professor Tom Kochan describes how adapting course content for a MOOC has helped him learn how to communicate curricular material in new ways. He also shares how doing so has inspired his teaching and helped him think about the creative potential of MITx on the edX platform.
A Different Mode of Communication
If someone would have told me five years ago that I would be teaching an online course, I would have said they were crazy. That’s not what I do. I teach on campus. I teach in the classroom. We have discussions. I give lectures. As a professor, I’ve been trained to be in ongoing dialogue with students about complex issues and ideas.
Teaching online is a fundamentally different mode of communication. I had to learn to take my material and break it down into focused, single-point learning modules. This means you really have to know exactly what point you’re trying to convey to students. You also need to be able to reinforce that point, to build on it, and to do so through the medium of five-minute videos. It took an enormous effort to think about what the focused content of 15.662x ought to be, to prepare that content, and then to communicate it in video form. I enjoyed the challenge.
The People Behind the Process
I also enjoyed observing how many people it takes to do this well. The MITx video producers are outstanding. They took my content and found footage to complement it. They really made the content come alive. Additionally, the MITx staff members I worked with to think through how to structure discussions and exercises on the platform were so creative! It was a learning experience for me to see the number of people it takes to make MOOCs successful and the creative potential of this enterprise.
The creative possibilities associated with developing MOOCs has inspired my teaching. I want to create standalone modules so that I can continue to have an integrated seven-week course, but also so that I can have modules that I can use in different settings with different groups. For example, we’re going to teach some of the material from 15.662x during a Sloan Innovation Period (SIP), which is a special week-long period of classes, focused on leadership, for MBA students. We’ll offer four modules: the first three will be online, and the fourth will bring everybody together in person to reflect on what they have learned and to engage in an exercise about where we should direct our efforts in the future. This has never before been done during SIP. We’re doing it as an experiment. I’m excited about it, as is the Sloan MBA office. It seems like students are, too—I’m told the course is overenrolled. It’s a great opportunity to think creatively about what we can do with the course material. I’m certain there are a lot more potential applications that we haven’t even thought of yet.