Our First MOOC

Conference Presentation

Following are materials made available for my session at the InstructureCon 2014 conference titled, “Our First MOOC,” in which I share the story of creating and delivering a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). The referenced MOOC was General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior offered on the Canvas Network during Jan-Feb 2014, presented by Mary Lahman (Manchester University), Greg Thompson (BYU), and me.

Photo - No GuardrailLinks and Downloads

Resources available from the session:

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“Blue Box”

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Additional Resources

  • The Canvas Network Course “General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior” (public access)
  • Download the entire General Semantics course as one PDF (31 mb). At the conclusion of each module in our course, we provided an HTML file and a PDF for that module’s content. The course participants could then download these files and access all of the course materials (except Discussions, Quizzes, and some videos) offline, without having to be logged into Canvas.
  • Here is the process I used to create one HTML file with multiple pages of content (by module), then a PDF for each module, and finally combining the six PDFs into one. Note: to do this you need to have some familiarity with HTML and the common tags. Your course must also be open for this to work since the images will continue to reside on the Canvas Network servers.
  1. Open a plain text editor (not Word or Pages), like TextEdit or Wordpad.
  2. Open your Canvas course.
  3. Starting with your home page, select Edit, then HTML Editor.
  4. Click anywhere inside the editor, then select all (CMD/CTRL A), then copy (CMD/CTRL C).
  5. Switch to your plain text editor and PASTE what you’ve just copied from Canvas.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 for all of your pages within the module or course, copying each page at the bottom of the same plain text editor page so you end up with one really long page.
  7. Canvas uses relative HTML paths for images and videos. For example, the HTML for an image might begin with: <img src=”/courses/191/files/184067 . In this case 191 is the course number and 184067 is the unique identifier Canvas assigns to a particular image.
  8. For an HTML file that exists outside of the Canvas course to correctly refer to this image, the relative references (starting with /courses/) must be replaced with the full URL, which would look like https://learn.canvas.net/courses/191/files/184067.So the next step is to user your text editor’s Find/Replace (or Search/Replace) function to FIND [“/courses/] and REPLACE with [“https://learn.canvas.net/courses/] (Brackets [ and ] would NOT be included in either the FIND or REPLACE terms.)
  9. Since Discussions, Assignments, Quizzes, and content other than Pages will not be available offline, you may want to go through remove all links to these items.
  10. Save your text editor file as a .html file if you editor allows. If you have to save it as a .txt file, after you’ve saved it you can rename the file extension from .txt to .html.
  11. To check your work, open the file in your browser and look for obvious formatting errors or images that do not display properly. You may need to troubleshoot the HTML to resolve specific problems. Check your links and make sure they work.
  12. Once your satisfied with the appearance of your consolidated HTML page, you’re ready to save it as a PDF.
  13. Since you probably don’t want to embed videos in your PDF (you can, but the file size will be huge), go through and delete all the video links or embedded code.
  14. To create the PDF file, simply Print the file to the PDF format.
  15. If you have access to the full Acrobat Pro version, you may want to spend a few minutes and create internal Bookmarks for the individual pages within the PDF. Then if you have Acrobat pro, you can combine all of the individual module PDFs into one course-level PDF.

Invitation to MOOC with Me

I wanted to let you know that, together with two colleagues, we’re offering a free six-week course on the Canvas Network. This is just one of the platforms offering what has come to be referred to as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

The title of the course is General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior (click for the description). As you may or may not remember, I taught General Semantics at TCU in Fort Worth from 2005-2008 in the Schieffer School of Journalism.

My collaborators are Mary Lahman, Ph.D. (communication studies), at Manchester University in Indiana, and Greg Thompson, Ph.D. (cultural anthropology) at BYU. This course is based on a course that Mary has taught at Manchester since the mid-90s called Language and Thought. Manchester University has agreed to sponsor the course on Canvas Network. Mary and I will each lead the class for two weeks, Greg for one, and we’ll all share duties for the last week.

The course begins January 13th. Right now our enrollment is at 531 and we’re projecting to have at least 700. Judging by the top-level domains in the registrants’ email addresses, we have at least 22 countries represented.

Here are some reasons you might be interested in registering for the course:

  1. To experience the capabilities (and limitations) of a Canvas Network online course, especially if you’re involved with education. And really, who isn’t these days?
  2. To interact with other adult learners from around the world, most of whom, according to the published statistics, have at least associates or bachelors degrees.
  3. To see first-hand what a MOOC is like and get a feel for its advantages and disadvantages.
  4. Last but not least, learn something about General Semantics (which, btw, is not the same as semantics).

If you’re interested, or if you know anyone who may want to check it out, our course description and registration is at https://www.canvas.net/courses/general-semantics-an-approach-to-effective-language-behavior. It’s completely free, no obligations, and you can do as much or as little of the work as you want. So if you just want to sign-up and lurk, that’s fine. If we can’t keep you interested in the content, shame on us.