Book Review: MOOC Yourself by Inge de Waard
The e-book MOOC Yourself by Inge Ignatia de Waard is a brief read but packed full of useful information about MOOCs. Though the subtitle, “Set Up Your Own MOOC for Business, Non-Profits and Informal Communities,” implies it’s a how-to book, de Waard goes into MOOC history and more.
In fact the first third of MOOC Yourself provides a detailed background about massive open online courses with information on their origins, founders, platforms, trends and controversies. The book’s target audience is educators who are interested in developing a cMOOC for a business or a non-profit organization.
The term cMOOC refers to a connectivist-type of MOOC — quite different from the xMOOCs most commonly discussed in the media from platforms such as Coursera, iversity or edX. (To learn more about cMOOCs and xMOOCs you can read my article on that topic for beginners here.)Each style of MOOC requires a unique development strategy, even though they share numerous common factors. Thus educators who are working with xMOOC formats will still find several sections of MOOC Yourself applicable. The book is also conducive to searching for specific content of interest, as the table of contents at the front of the book resembles an index with short content sections listed by topic.
Inge Ignatia de Waard certainly has credibility in the world of MOOCs. She is currently researching mobile learning and MOOCs at the Open University of the United Kingdom and was the lead facilitator of the MobiMOOC offered in 2011 and 2012. This cMOOC focused on learning and training using mobile devices. Though the course is over, a comprehensive MobiMOOC course Wiki is still online for those interested in learning more.
The book is not available in hardcover but exclusively in the Kindle e-book format. The cost is reasonable — $2.99, which also makes it a low-risk purchase for those looking for background information on MOOC development. This book is not a step-by-step guide to course development, however. For example, it doesn’t include any templates or diagrams on course development formats, but the book does provide a solid background on MOOCs with guidelines and helpful advice for cMOOC development.
de Waard also takes full advantage of the digital format of her book by providing embedded links to content sources. The fact that I can use my Kindle app on my laptop, made it easy to make notes and highlight content. As I mentioned, searching for content is fairly easy with the index format at the front, though it would have been more helpful if the index were divided into sections, for instance PART I: MOOC history, PART II: Guidelines for Development, PART III: Guidelines for Facilitating, etc. As it stands, the index is just one long list of topics.
Table of Contents of MOOC Yourself by Inge de Waard
Perhaps because of the digital format, the layout and design of the text was often off. Several sections had text in bold, others had a grey font rather than black and still others had different sizes and types of font. I also noticed a few spelling and grammar errors. Though this is not a big deal, I find it is less distracting when there is a cohesive format.
The first third of the book, as already mentioned, is dedicated to the background of MOOCs; history, types, controversies, pros and cons etc. de Waard includes links to several resources that readers may find helpful if they are new to the MOOC format.
The how-to section of the book offers a mix of guidelines for course development, implementation and facilitation. Several sections list succinct and practical advice in numbered and bullet points. I found the section on “What to Consider before rolling out a MOOC” and “Launching a MOOC is the easy part, how to keep it going” particularly helpful. For example,
“As the MOOC proceeds some MOOC participants can get tired of the constant overload so make sure you also provide some days off, especially if your course is longer than three weeks! Here are 4 simple suggestions that can boost morale and keep the course moving forward . . . .”
An insightful section on creative MOOC pedagogy provides a good analysis of the learning approaches of constructivism and connectivism in the context of MOOCs and briefly describes the flipped classroom method and problem-centered learning. de Waard does not prescribe which pedagogical approach to apply but accurately states that “a mix of approaches will reach the most learners. One solution never fit all.” [sic]
The latter part of the book gives practical advice on copyright considerations, costs to MOOC development and facilitation. Though the costs associated with a MOOC and copyright issues are complex, de Waard’s section provides introduction to the factors to consider. She does attempt to describe ROI, return on investment, for MOOCs, though really none of the MOOC providers has demonstrated the ability to calculate this accurately.
Closing thoughts on MOOC Yourself
Overall, MOOC Yourself provides good background for readers not familiar with MOOCs or who want to expand their existing knowledge. It’s a great value for a tool that can used as a guide for developing a cMOOC for a business or a non-profit organization. Even readers developing or facilitating a xMOOC will find some useful advice.