A false start on a SOOC

I’ve decided to try planning one of my spring courses as a SOOC — a Small Open Online Class. I am simply not ready for anything Massive or Massively Open. Rather I want to start with what I already do, and let others join in.

So what I wanted do was offer one of my standard half-instructivist, half-constructivist classes in Moodle, which are traditionally closed but allow self-enrolling. I wanted to give my enrolled students the same private, individual feedback as I always do on tests, and group feedback as I always do in the forums, where image collections are constructed and theses developed. But on top of that I wanted to allow Guest Students who would be able to access all lectures and materials, and participate in the forums, but not mess up my gradebook. They could do tests if they want, but I wouldn’t be grading them, so only the multiple-choice would grade, and that’s already automatic.

I figured out I could create a Guest Student role and a Guest Student group. A separate role would make it so that each list of students would be separate in Assign Roles, so I could easily check official registration and drop the enrolled people who no longer wish to participate. The group function would separate the two cohorts in the Gradebook, so long as the whole course was based on groups. I went to my US course and set the Course Settings to Groups, visible and not forced, so activities could be set in common (like the forums). I was pretty sure there wasn’t a way, however, to have the system automatically sort those who get an account and “enrol” in the Moodle class. It wouldn’t be able to automatically put them in separate groups — I’d have to do that by hand.

So then I would have an Open-Closed MOOC, only smaller, with people coming in to my LMS instead of me moving the whole course outside the LMS. (While I would love to engage in the more open pedagogy and teach a real Open-Open MOOC, there is no way I can do this starting, as I must, with over 200 students each semester in five different classes.)

But then I discovered I can’t do any of this, because MiraCosta does not host our own installation of Moodle. Rather we have an external vendor, Moodlerooms. The college’s account allows a limited number of participants — I can’t fill it up with external people who aren’t enrolled. Oh no! Now what?

So on to idea #2. Start with my on-site class instead, since that’s not in a LMS anyway. I could take this class and put all the materials on an open WP site. I already have online lectures, and a textbook. I don’t usually use my online lectures for an on-site class, but what the heck. I spent most of today creating a new WordPress blog and setting it up. To be continued…

CC “False start” photo by Stephen Downes via Flickr

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