Endorsing Helpful MOOC Participants
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Situation    In the “Begin Programming: Build your first mobile game” MOOC we wanted to encourage participants to help each other in solving problems. This was essential in this MOOC as the course was on beginner programming and there could be a lot of people new to programming struggling with little things like syntax errors because they did not know how to solve it or search for a solution on the web. Many first time programmers find it difficult to understand programming logic and because the do not know how to critically evaluate someone's offered help they tend to wait for an educator or mentor to answer their questions, which in a MOOC is impossible to achieve.

Task    For each week in the course we created a discussion step 'Let's Help Each other' where we asked the people who needed help to post their questions. Educators and mentors encouraged the other course participants to answer these questions and support each other. However, we discovered that the participants were reluctant to accept solutions offered by their peers.
Action    The team of educators and mentors started to encourage and endorse particularly helpful answers by posting a small comment encouraging the replied participant thanking him and possibly adding something more.

Result    This action by the course team encouraged participants to answer more questions. It also was viewed by other participant as an 'endorsement' for the answering student so that he/she could be identified as a trustworthy person providing answers. This was especially useful in this course as the platform did not support ‘Community TA’ type roles provided by other MOOC platforms.

Reflection    If one is struggling to understand a concept (for example like a maths concept where there is one correct answer) unless you know that the person trying to help has some credibility you may be reluctant to take them seriously. Similarly in technical subjects participants coming from different disciplines and for the first time studying computing find it scary, especially if they are suggesting deleting a file, changing a configuration of your computer, which you have never done before. Not knowing how these changes would impact other programmes on your computer, it is reasonable that participants waiting for reassurance. In this situation, they rely on a known party (teacher, teaching assistant, official mentors) in the course. When educators and mentors started appreciating participants who were helping each other, the learner cohort started accepting them as experts.This narrative is somewhat complementary to 'Wear your skills on your Shirt' (http://web.lkldev.ioe.ac.uk/patternlanguage/xwiki/bin/view/Patterns/WearYourSkills.html) design pattern.


Author(s): Paige Cuffe, Eileen Kennedy, Yishay Mor, tharindu, Steven Warburton
Published at: 18 Mar 2019 14:02 GMT
Original link (login required): https://ilde.upf.edu/moocs/pg/lds/view/1436/