Responding to a need for a course on entrepreneurship designed to help those working in information technology to develop the commercial value of their ideas, educators from England, Greece, Denmark, Slovenia, Portugal, Sweden, and Norway submitted a course development proposal to the ERAMUS program of the European Union. The group, which included experts in content, pedagogy, technology, and student administration, received funding to develop a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on IT and Entrepreneurship offered for the first time in 2015.
The multinational team used a new course development method called Concurrent e-Learning Design (CCeD) to create the MOOC, Flexible Learning in Information Technology and Entrepreneurship or FLITE.
The Norwegian partner was Thorleif Hjeltnes, the manager of the TISIP Foundation and a professor in the Institute for Informatics and e-Learning at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. The TISIP Foundation is involved with technology for learning, virtual campuses and networked organizations, quality and business models in e-learning, and led the initial development of the Concurrent e-Learning Design methodology.
Concurrent design is applied in a number of industries but not usually in education. With this project, it had the added challenge of being used to develop an online course through meetings that were, for the most part, held online. The core of this approach is the team discussing and sharing, in a structured manner, all the inter-related aspects of the project. The result is an overview of the whole project which guides the design of each specific component, as well as project implementation.
The development team, representing higher education institutions in each of the participating countries, met face-to-face in London at the beginning of the project. The purpose of the initial meeting was to build a sense of mutual trust and confidence in the team members, as well as to arrive at agreement on the project objectives, activities, products, and each member’s role and specific responsibilities.
A portion of the meeting was also dedicated to the Concurrent e-Learning Design methodology they would be using to create the MOOC. Some of the participants were familiar with this methodology; many were not. The methodology and its application were introduced, discussed, and modelled so the participants would be comfortable using it in the subsequent online meetings.
During the online meetings held over the next few months, the partners completed detailed Situational Analyses for each of the main components of the course – learning outcomes, pedagogy, technology, content, administration, and student support and communication. For each of these factors, they suggested and discussed possible approaches and existing resources that could be considered for inclusion, and then reached final decisions. Different partners took on the responsibility for the development of various aspects of the MOOC, guided by the input for these meetings.
The initial development took place over six months. An early, small-scale pilot of the course in IT Entrepreneurship was offered by ATEI in Greece for 20 students, so their feedback and experiences could be used to improve the design of the MOOC.
The MOOC was offered through the University of Greenwich in England; other partners contributing components of the content or support. NTNU provided videos related to a number of the course topics and the MOOC was delivered on Canvas.net to allow for easy international access.
Evaluations of the project and the course were essential components from the beginning, drawing on a variety of approaches and groups:
- The project partners were consulted on the criteria to be used to evaluate the various aspects of the project, whether through formal measurement tools or though interactions during and after their meetings.
- Multiple choice and open-ended questions were sent to each participant after each online meeting to evaluate the effectiveness of the meeting.
- A Quality Board of 11 external stakeholders was set up to give feedback at pre-determined milestones of the project development. The Quality Board included potential students, lecturers with expertise in content, and business people. Their feedback was integrated during the design stage and after the first, small pilot test.
- Once launched, the MOOC was assessed through learning analytics and surveys of students and lecturers.
Outcomes and Benefits
Course Outcomes: The MOOC, offered in English, drew 1,581 registrations; of these about half started the course and used some of the content. About 10% worked through all the content; video examples of entrepreneurial pitches and the recommended final assignment were received from about 20 students. The majority of the registrants were from the main target group of those working in IT, and were from all over the world.
Outcomes for Course Design Methodology: All members of the group developed wider areas of expertise and experience in course design. The optimum approach for course development is to draw on a group with expertise in many different areas, but with small scale efforts, this kind of diversity is often not possible. Consequently, the Concurrent Design methodology involves all partners in planning all aspects of the course, and building their expertise.
The shared, concurrent design methodology, with its monthly online meetings, meant members of the team were focused on the totality of the project, and not just the components for which they were responsible. This led to a sense of shared responsibility and commitment.
Challenges and Enhancements
Course Challenges: Although the MOOC was planned to involve 50 study hours, the content and optional readings could have taken up to 200 hours. A better balance is necessary between the volume of content and the length of the MOOC.
The organization of group work in the MOOC proved extremely problematic, with worldwide participants. Groups of 250 students were organized, but were not useful. It is also important to find a balance between group work and the self-directed learning that matches with an entrepreneurial approach.
Especially for a course designed to fit the independent and self-reliant students interested in entrepreneurship, ways of measuring success need to be more appropriate than course completion.
Challenges for Course Design Methodology: Considerable time has to be dedicated to helping participants understand the Concurrent Design process.
In European Union projects, it can be difficult to get the necessary time commitment from all group members, as the project is a small part of their responsibilities.
The MOOC will be offered again, using a new approach of providing different tracks. One will be knowledge-based for those who want only the information and another will emphasize group work. Those who wish to collaborate will be organized into groups of 10 to explore and develop their entrepreneurial ideas.
As part of the course development process, an app on the use of the Concurrent E-Learning Design process was developed, and will be made available through a private company.
For Further Information
Department of Informatics and e-Learning
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Hjeltnes, Thorleif; Fox, Anne; Hjeltnes, Tor Atle. (2016) INTERNAL EVALUATION OF EDUCATIONAL EU PROJECTS. INTED2016 Proceedings 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, March 7th-9th, 2016 — Valencia, Spain.
Hjeltnes, Tor Atle; Strand, Knut Arne; Storvik, Monica; Hjeltnes, Thorleif. (2016) Concurrent Design: The importance of theoretical and practical training. INTED2016 Proceedings 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, March 7th-9th, 2016 — Valencia, Spain.