MOOCs as a tool in journalism education: what works and what doesn’t?

A crash course on the tricks of successful organization of massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a tool in journalism education was presented by David Röthler from the University of Salzburg and Marcus von Jordan from the Torial Academy during an event on 6 April as part of the tenth edition of the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.

Röthler and von Jordan spoke from personal experience with projects they had previously worked on and touched upon important aspects such as easy access, connectivism and cooperation with various partners.

Lesson 1: Do not expect that people will join your course just because it is good

Let’s face it – a MOOC requires a lot of preparation and hard work, but also planning and resources. You might be certain that you are offering something good in terms of the chosen issue and its topicality and this might, indeed, be so. However, in order to keep track of the popularity of your online course “you have to try to guarantee a basic reach”, advises Marcus von Jordan.

This can easily be done by trying to predict the number of participants and generally interested people from the very beginning, in the planning phase and keep track of this number throughout all the phases of organization.

Lesson 2: Be careful with “highly attractive” topics

Some topics, such as the migrant crisis in Europe for example, are hot and very attractive as potential subject matter for a MOOC. However, they are so attractive that they have probably already caught the eye of many, which means that organizing an online course on the same issue at this specific moment might not be the best thing to do. Why? The answer is: journalists and the public are so engaged with this topic and your MOOC will most probably only produce a reaction, such as “oh, not you, too?!”

Lesson 3: Do choose cooperation partners wisely

“Cooperation is crucial”, says David Röthler and adds that one should try to cooperate with unusual players in education, for example with a local paper or with a TV station for a live streaming of the event. Unconventional ways such as livestream on Facebook could also be considered.

Lesson 4: Success requires good preparation and hard work before the MOOC, but also afterwards

According to Marcus von Jordan, one should try to engage the participants also after the MOOC is over because this could contribute to a fruitful discussion and sharing of valuable ideas, but also to an increase of the popularity of the online course even after its offical end.

Both, Röthler and von Jordan agree that there will be more and more possibilities for journalists to develop their knowledge and skills online. As Marcus von Jorden puts it “Journalism is more and more going to be like the Internet itself and journalists play a game in which the rules and the character of the game change all the time”. However, David Röthler believes that MOOCs should not target only journalists, but contribute to an overall development of media literacy among non-professionals, such as citizen journalists, as well. “The media landscape has changed dramatically and education should experience a similar change”, adds the scholar from the University of Salzburg.

By Stanislava Gaydazhieva