Creating a MOOCocracy: The Development of New Learner-centered MOOC Tools for Public Engagement

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

A MOOCocracy is a social democratic online collaborative platform for adult learners to evaluate their own attitudes and mobilize about critical societal issues including food insecurity.  Presenters will outline their new MOOCocracy learner dashboard, attitude discussion board, and community knowledge space. Attendees are invited to provide tool and pedagogy feedback.


Dr. Jamie Loizzo is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Communication at the University of Florida. Her Ph.D. and M.S.Ed are in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University. Jamie also has a B.A. in Radio-Television (News) from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She has professional experience as a journalist and video producer and worked in television newsrooms in Illinois, Kentucky, and Florida. Jamie’s dissertation examined a Human Trafficking MOOC. She has since examined social science and humanities MOOCs and developed the MOOCocracy concept. Jamie also founded Streaming Science, a project-based learning program for 21st Century science communication education.

Extended Abstract


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are not dead (Ahmad & Oakley, 2017; Peters, 2018). The MOOC hype of a few years ago (Pappano, 2012) may have settled, but companies and universities continue to experiment with business and instructional models for these unique online learning experiences (AlDahdough & Osorio, 2016; Najfi, Rolheiser, Haklev, & Harrison, 2017). For instance, Udacity offers nano-degrees and Coursera offers degrees and ‘Master Track Certificates’ (Coursera, 2018; Udacity, 2018). Some universities also continue to offer MOOCs for a variety of reasons such as increasing institutional visibility and engaging and recruiting potential students (Craig, 2015).

Predominantly adult learners with higher education degrees are taking MOOCs for a variety of reasons such as professional development, personal enjoyment, and lifelong learning (De Barba, Kennedy, & Ainley, 2016; Shapiro et al., 2017). This is in contrast to how MOOCs were initially romanticized to open up education to the masses who typically do not have access to higher education (Kelly, 2014). An adult learning MOOCocracy culture has emerged and includes many adult learners who value education and dialogue about critical global issues (Loizzo & Ertmer, 2016). MOOC adult learners are self-directed and have the ability to set their own learning goals, which do not always include earning a certificate (Loizzo, Ertmer, Watson, & Watson, 2017).  There is a need to re-examine metrics and apply learner-centered measures gauging motivation, success, and completion.  Additionally, it has been proven that MOOCs are not only learning environments, but also engagement spaces for impacting and changing attitudes via instruction and dialogue about social issues such as human trafficking and animal welfare (Watson et al., 2016a; Watson, Kim, & Watson, 2016c).

While business and instructional tweaks are underway, the delivery and engagement technology of MOOCs has not necessarily changed much. Many MOOCs typically utilize traditional learning management system (LMS) features such as static course dashboards and threaded discussion boards similar to Blackboard and Canvas. MOOCs usually include a small instructional team facilitating a course to thousands of students, and the usual one-size-fits-all online learning tools are proving to be ineffective for scaled-up learning and engagement.  Learners have described getting lost in the MOOC discussion boards, difficulty tracking instructor presence across the thousands of voices, and frustration returning to information and posts of interest (Kirschner, 2012; Loizzo, Ertmer, Watson, & Watson, 2017). There is a need to systematically develop learner-centered MOOC tools based on effective instructional online design models such as the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010), attitude-focused instruction (Watson et al., 2016b), and public engagement research.

In an effort to maximize the potential of MOOCs and to propel them into their next iteration, our team (comprised of learning design and technology, computer science, science communication, public policy, and public engagement experts) has spent nearly two years creating learner-centered MOOCocracy tools for fostering online presences, self-directed goal setting, attitude-focused reflection and engagement, and potentially mobilization around critical social issues. A MOOCocracy is a social democratic online collaborative platform for adult learners to evaluate their own attitudes and mobilize about critical societal issues including food insecurity.

MOOCocracy Tools

We are developing and testing three MOOCocracy ( learning technology integrations (LTIs) for embedding in existing learning management systems: 1) learner-centered dashboard, 2) attitudinal discussion board and map, and 3) a community knowledge base.

The dynamic and interactive MOOCocracy learner-centered dashboard follows CoI principles with a focus on tracking cognitive, social, and instructional online presences. The dashboard includes: 1) a feed for tracking facilitators’ presence, 2) a learner library for learners to build via flagged posts and resources of interest, 3) a personal attitude reflection space, and 4) a goal-setting space for learners to declare personalized learning and engagement metrics for their MOOCocracy experience.

The second MOOCocracy LTI is an attitude-focused discussion board.  Instead of posting paragraphs of threaded posts, learners instead respond to a statement from the facilitator and use a new sliding mechanism to declare their attitude on a spectrum of agreement and disagreement and then, post their thoughts and supporting resources.  The discussion board is interactive and dynamic in that it shows where all learners’ attitudes appear about an issue, as well as allows for searching through the various attitudes and sorting posts based on attitudes.  The discussion board will also connect to an interactive map that will work much like a weather climate map and provide an overview learners’ attitudes based on geographical location. 

The MOOCocracy community knowledge base LTI is a space where learners can post self-created products such as articles, videos, podcasts, and photos about the course topic.  The space is meant to serve as a library of learner-generated multimedia, as part of assignments or final projects in a course.  Learners can then sort through the knowledge base via information and media type and return to the resources after the course.

Food Insecurity MOOCocracy Pilot

Along with the development of the new LTIs, our team has concurrently developed a test-bed of MOOCocracy content modules about food insecurity ( We selected this topic because it embodies a critical social issue ideal for MOOCocracy learning, attitude change, engagement, and potentially mobilization.

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members (USDA, 2018). Food insecurity has health consequences that can last a lifetime, and they not only strain individual families, but on whole communities. The Food Insecurity MOOCocracy is facilitated by science communicators engaging with experts in the areas of nutrition, community development and public engagement, as well as community members who work with low-income families. The modules are organized by different aspects of food insecurity, including an overview, nutrition, poverty, and sustainability. A case-based instructional design approach is used (Jonassen & Hernandez-Serrano, 2002) with studio expert interview videos and on-location videos to demonstrate the impact of food insecurity. Discussion prompts are crafted to encourage participants to delve deeper into their own attitudes and perceptions of those who are food insecure and how we should go about addressing this problem. The community knowledge space is designed to allow learners to share their multimedia projects about food insecurity in their own communities with other participants. The Food Insecurity MOOCocracy pilot is scheduled for Spring 2019.

Session Presentation, Reflection, and Q & A Engagement

The structure of this session will include an overview of the MOOCocracy mission, demonstration of the new LTIs, and preview of the food insecurity modules. Attendees will be asked to reflect on additional ideas and recommendations for our MOOCoracy team’s future directions in LTI development and pedagogical approaches.  The session presenters will then guide attendees through a series of questions and answers about the LTIs, including specific attention to attendee feedback and input for improving MOOCocracy tools, module development, and facilitation.


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