The Service Research Center (CTF) at Karlstads University, Sweden is a multidisciplinary research center focusing on service management and value creation through service and close cooperation with service businesses, manufacturing companies, and public-service providers.
With the support of external funding and in cooperation with the Karlstads Business School and a number of businesses, the Service Research Centre committed to develop open educational resources (OERs) to provide educational opportunities to business professionals, as well as more effectively disseminate research results. Linked to this initiative, newly appointed Business School Assistant Professor, Dr. Jӧrg Pareigis, began to investigate the potential of information technology to improve the pedagogical quality of courses. His research included attending a conference where he heard about the use of MOOCs for simultaneous credit and non-credit learning, followed by participating in a MOOC on flexible online learning. From this, he championed the idea of integrating OERs into dual-purpose massive open online courses (MOOCs) as the model for the CTF to adopt for its educational outreach.
The MOOCs, which focus on service, customer experiences and business development, are available online under Creative Commons licensing.
Students: The MOOCs are designed for business professionals with at least three years experience, offering a choice of how to participate. Students may go through the formal registration process at the university and take MOOCs for credit or they can follow the open networked courses online with no credit other than a certificate of participation. Registrations, both credit and non-credit, include Swedish and international students.
Course Design: Each MOOC has six to eight modules, with the first one focused on skills and technology involved in online learning. All students connect to the home page through a personal blog. In each module, professors address topics in their areas of expertise, supplemented by a choice of reading materials. Both credit and non-credit students are asked to reflect on and write about the content and its applicability to their organization, as well as respond to others’ blog posts. Each week, a live webinar is held for direct, often dynamic, communication and one MOOC integrated weekly Twitter chats. Students seeking credit also submit a final paper linking what they learned to their particular work situation. The online materials are presented or sub-titled in English.
Pedagogy: As the participants are business professionals, the emphasis is on application of the learning, raising questions such as how it might be applied, how useful it is, and the impediments to change in organization. The exchange between the participants is a way of making the academic content more accessible and practical. Dr. Pareigis’s inspiration in the design is the connectivism demonstrated in the MOOC work of Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, Alec Couros, and Jim Groom, among others.
Benefits and Outcomes
The Hybrid MOOC project produced and offered three courses, with four more to be developed and funding requested for a further six. The original funding was for the development of OERs. The development of full courses, with the integrated videos as the OERs, far exceeds the original intent of the funding.
Credit and non-credit students can benefit from each other’s experience and perspectives through the connectivist design that stresses blogs, webinars, and other communications.
A Spring 2017 course had 2,000 unique users, including 200 participants who registered their e-mail addresses, and 25 students taking the MOOC for credit.
The dual model of offering each MOOC for credit, and as an open networked course, simultaneously combines the University’s educational mission and public outreach. The courses also serve as promotional tool for Karlstads University. As expressed by Professor Pareigis, the MOOCs allow potential students to “test drive the services of the university.”
For each successful registered student, the university receives state funding, thereby making the MOOC self-financing.
As all course materials are available under Creative Commons licensing, they can be re-packaged and re-used, such as the use of videos in on-campus courses.
The Service Research Centre, Business School professors and the University benefit through the development of new capacities in pedagogy and technology-assisted learning.
Challenges and Enhancements
Promotion of the MOOCs is challenging as they are not offered through any of the main MOOC portals, such as Cousera and EdX.
Professor Pareigis points out these MOOCs are subject to the same challenges facing online learning in general, such as student motivation, technology difficulties, and completion rates.
Some of the participants do not like the design as they would prefer a less interactive structure in which they would simply receive and digest the information.
The development and delivery of MOOCs helps the Service Research Centre to extend its role as a service provider, offering educational opportunities to practicing professionals. It is gaining a higher profile in the business community, with professionals asking to join as PhD students and new company partners.
For Further Information
Karlstads Business School
Service Research Centre