MOOC is distance education offered via the Internet to a large number of people for free, Jan Bot started. There are students, there is a teacher and you have content.
MOOCs consist of short video lectures of 5 to 10 minutes in a virtual class environment offering material and quizzes. The MOOCs have discussion forums, they are interactive and sometimes, students can get a Certificate of Achievement.
Certain universities develop their own platform, according to Jan Bot.
Why has SURFsara set up a MOOC on Grid computing? Jan Bot explained that Grid computing has a high learning curve. One day seminars don't have the desired effect. Another reason is the international nature of Grid computing.
The SURFsara MOOC had mini-project goals. The first one was getting experience teaching a MOOC. The second one consisted in creating Grid documentation. Teaching an international audience about Grid computing also constituted a challenge but it provides the opportunity to increase the visibility of the Grid community.
Jan Bot elaborated on the preparation phase of the Grid MOOC. You have to define your motivation and the target group, search for real experiences, follow other MOOCs, and identify roles such as the instructor, the co-ordinator, the developer, the tester, the video editor, and externals.
You also have to choose a MOOC platform and create the material including hand-outs, slides, and assignments. It is important to determine restrictions with regard to software and data.
The curriculum of the Grid MOOC included the following elements:
The equipment for the MOOC consisted of video capture using a laptop, a camera with microphone, screen recording software, Wacom and drawing software. The screencasts were performed with QuickTime Player.
Live recordings were made in the Collaboratorium in Amsterdam. The organizers used the MOOC platform of the University of Amsterdam.
The MOOC on Grid computing was initiated via the EGI-InSPIRE project by SURFsara. The duration was 8 weeks with 9 lectures per week and 1 mandatory quiz per week. There were several exercises per week, followed by a final assignment.
In total there were 37 lectures consisting of video lectures, start-up guides, and use cases, Jan Bot explained.
Further more, there were hands on prerequesites, virtual machines for the software, and Grid certificates for the authentication.
The virtual machines had main VM with a complete UI installation; a torque queue; and WS-Pgrade VM.
In overall there were 350 participants. 13% submitted all the quizzes. 9% succeeded in the MOOC but the rate of dropouts was expected, according to Jan Bot
The effort to set up the MOOC was considerable. It took 6 months of preparation; 2 months of running the course including the announcements, the discussion forums, and the extra videos; and 1 month to wrap up.
Jan Bot also did an evaluation among the participants. A google docs questionnaire was sent to the participants. When analyzing the user statistics, he learned that the participants were often familiar with the Linux command line and scripting languages. The participants were mostly PhDs and scientific programmers. More than 300 people registered but only 29 people got a certificate of participation.
Teaching a MOOC is very time consuming, according to Jan Bot. One has to keep in mind that the team does not consist of experienced lecturers. One also has to provide semi-anonymous access to a production computing environment which means setting up accounts, organizing Grid certificates and VO membership. One also has to maintain a predefined timeline which forces you and the participants to commit to such a project.
When setting up a MOOC, one should discuss about the necessity of using a MOOC or not; about the motivation and about the target group.
In his future plans Jan Bot is thinking of combining a MOOC with real life teaching to get more feedback. He also wants to involve universities of applied sciences and modify the teaching platform to directly interface with the compute infrastructure. He considers teaching a class without a time constraint.
External contributors for use cases would be very useful too.