Making, MOOCs and Meaningful Metrics

Jean Cheng, Exploratorium, USA

What design principles and strategies encourage a deep learning experience for museum visitors, and how do those translate online? Can we leverage digital platforms in interesting and appropriate ways to create quality professional development and a sense of online community around tinkering and making? How do we measure effectiveness, especially on a massive scale?

In recent years, maker spaces have proliferated across many settings, including museums. Although making and tinkering are age-old human practices, their potential for engagement, innovation, playful exploration and creative inquiry make them especially attractive for free-choice learning environments.

For over a decade, the Exploratorium has been developing science-rich tinkering activities and offering in-person professional development. In 2014, the Exploratorium, one of only three museum partners on the Coursera learning platform, offered its first-ever tinkering MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), a six-week online participatory workshop aimed at formal and informal educators.

The course attracted 7,000 students from 150 countries, of which ~4,400 were active participants, resulting in 66,000 video views and 6,700 forum posts. Participants went well beyond the weekly assignments, initiating their own discussions, actively responding to others, seeking out other tinkering activities, and sharing their own skills and expertise.

In this paper and presentation, we'll share our experience designing and running the online course, as well as findings and insights from our post-course analysis and research.

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Littlejohn, A. & C. Milligan. (2013) “Professional learning through massive open online courses,” MOOC Research Initiative report.

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