OLDS MOOC convergence sessions
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The Open Learning Design Studio (OLDS) MOOC ran for 9 weeks starting Jan. 2013. It was designed and facilitated by a consortium of 7 academic institutions, and partially funded by JISC. This MOOC was modeled on the studio metaphor, which is a common pedagogical format in many design disciplines. In this format, learners work in groups on a project of their own definition, with the guidance and support of the course tutors. We structured each week as a series of activities which where designed to provoke particular questions, and to highlight certain idea, tools or techniques.



In a traditional studio (or project based) classroom it would be common to have plenary discussions, where students review their progress and the issues they encountered, and discuss these with their peers and their tutors.

We wanted to offer an equivalent experience to OLDS MOOC participants, a weekly session where they can share their doubts and reflect on the past week's activities in an open and ernest discussion. 


Actions (How did you try to address the issue?)


We introduced weekly "convergence sessions" - live video chats where several facilitators and several participants discussed the last week's activities.

Activity goal(s) or intended outcome (“X”)

  • To give participants feedback and clarifications regarding the last weeks' activities.
  • To allow participants to provie feedback regarding the last weeks' activities to the course designers and facilitators.
  • To offer a first glimpse of next weeks' activites.
  • To offer participants a sense of direct interaction with facilitators, through the proxy of selected representatives..

Activity title & description

 Convergence session

A 1 hour weekly google hangout session, where pariticpants and facilitators discuss the activities of the last week. A small number (6-8) of participants and facilitators join in a video chat, which is streamed live. Other participants can interact with those in the video chat through twitter.

Activity materials

  • Wrapping web-page.
  • google hangout.
  • twitter hashtag

The “how” (steps A, B, C, that lead to Y or the activity outcomes)


For each session, we would: 

  1. set up a "holding page" with all the details and a note saying "the live video will be available here".
  2. Schedule the sessions well in advance, usually on the same time and day each week, and announce them on the MOOC mailing list. We would explain that the session is synchornous, but there would be a recording which would be available for asynchronous viewing.
  3. Send an open invitation for participants to join the session, and also personally invite participants who had been active in the MOOC's social media.
  4. 2-3 days before the session, create a "circle" in google+ with all the facilitators and participants who are expected to join the live video chat.
  5. On the day, open the google hangout session 30 minutes before the session start time, invite all the facilitators and participants who where allocated to the live video chat and run sound checks.
  6. Remind all other participants of the hashtag for the session.

Once live, we would:

  1. Have one facilitator chair the session, one monitor the technical aspects, and one monitor the interactions on the twitter hashtag and other social media.
  2. Begin with a recount of the last week's activities, followed by impresions and reflections of participants and facilitators. That would take about 15-20 minutes, and flow into an open discussion of 30-40 minutes. We would conclude with a brief introduction of the next week's activites. 
  3. Occasionally, we would have guests who would present a tool or method relevant to the coming week.

Activity outcomes (“Y”) (positive)




The sessions were very lively, and were well-attended both live and asynchronously. Participants reported that they found these sessions very helpful, for several reasons:

  • The discussion offered insights beyond the MOOC activities' text, in terms of the underlying assumptions and subtext.
  • It was encouraging to see other participants strugle with the same issues which were troubling them.
  • Seeing the facilitators live on video, in a casual setting, gave the MOOC a more human face.



These convergence sessions started almost as an afterthought, and turned out to be one of the central features of the MOOC. As a facilitator, I enjoyed the conversations with co-facilitators and participants very much. In terms of the MOOC experience, these sessions became almost the participation baseline: if you couldn't complete any other activity this week, you knew that at least you can get the "vibe" by viewing the convergence session.

The combination of a small number of participants in a live video chat and a larger circle interacting through the twitter hashtag offered both facilitators and participants the one element which is most despretely missing in MOOCs: the direct teacher-learner interaction, which provides facilitators an indicator of where the learners are and the learners a sense of where the facilitators want them to go.


Author(s): Yishay Mor, Steven Warburton
Published at: 01 Dec 2015 11:31 GMT
Original link (login required): https://ilde.upf.edu/moocs/pg/lds/view/911/