Productive MOOCS



Encourage learners to engage in authentic tasks to help them gain lasting knowledge.




You want to leave your learners with more than a certificate at the end of the course. But you find the learners focus on
achieving the course certificate. So you encourage learners to engage in authentic tasks to help them gain lasting knowledge.


Instead of a certificate, course designs can be tailored to support learners in creating an output (e.g. a knowledge
artefact) of lasting value to evidence their learning. MOOCs typically last several weeks, requiring around 10 hours
effort each week. Upon successful completion of the MOOC, the learner may be awarded a certificate of completion. However,
certificates may have limited value for some professionals. For some professionals (particularly those who are already wellqualified) it may be more valuable to use the time learning othe MOOC to create new knowledge that demonstrates their
learning directly. 

Set authentic tasks which have a clear useful output that learners can include in their portfolio as a record of
achievement. For example:

• learners could be asked to specify an output based on a
current challenge, and work to complete it through the
• learners with similar backgrounds could work together to
critique policy or conduct a foresighting exercise.
• learners with complementary expertise could be brought
together to define and resolve real-world problems as
ad hoc transient communities (Berlanga, Sloep, Kester,
Brouns, Rosmalen, & Koper, 2008). See [CAPTALISE ON

CONSIDER: You have to cede some control to your learners –
you don’t know what they will come up with, or have any way of
ensuring its quality. Designs which encourage peer-evaluation
could be adapted to mitigate this.


This pattern links with [CAPITALISE ON DIVERSITY]

Berlanga, A. J., Sloep, P. B., Kester, L., Brouns, F., Rosmalen, P., & Koper,
R. (2008). Ad hoc transient communities: towards fostering knowledge
sharing in learning networks. International Journal of Learning Technology,
3(4), 443-458.



A fundamental premise of design is that problems and solutions are rarely universal. The scope of any statement needs to be qualified if it is to be meaningful. Note the material, social and intentional characteristics of the setting in which the problem is embedded. These are the things you can’t change.


The solution is the centrepiece of the pattern. In scientific terms, it is the claim that under certain conditions the described actions will have a particular effect which addresses the problem.

The solution would ideally be articulated at a level of detail which allows immediate implementation, and yet is applicable beyond the specific experiences from which it is derived.



Justify the pattern by reference to data from cases where it appears to have had a positive effect. These would primarily be derived from the design experiment at hand and supplemented by external documented cases.


Data and References

This pattern was originally published in:
Littlejohn, A. and Milligan, C. (2015). Employers are becoming aware of the potential of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a significant form of learning for work. eLearning Papers 42. Retrived from

Author(s): Steven Warburton
Published at: 18 Mar 2019 14:09 GMT
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