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.

Come MOOC with Me

Map Not Territory

Starting January 13, 2014, a free online course in general semantics will be offered on Canvas Network. Canvas is a leading platform for delivering massive open online courses (MOOCs).

General Semantics: An Approach to Effective Language Behavior

The six-week course is based on a for-credit course offered by Manchester University (Indiana), taught by Mary Lahman, Ph.D., Professor of Communication Studies at Manchester, Greg Thompson, Ph.D., Brigham Young University, and Steve Stockdale, former executive director for the Institute of General Semantics.

The course provides an introduction to General Semantics—the study of how we transform our life experiences into language and thought. Students will learn how language habits and behaviors, how they think about and share experiences, are what make them uniquely human. In other words, students will discover the critical, but sometimes subtle, distinctions between what happens in their lives and how they talk about what happens.

This course has been designed specifically for the unique online environment enabled by Canvas Network. The interdisciplinary course will include material from communication studies, neuroscience, and cultural anthropology, in addition to visual and auditory demonstrations, music and social media, and collaborative interactions with fellow learners. These types of learning experiences allow students to not only learn about more effective language behaviors, but also practice those new behaviors in order to communicate more effectively and appropriately in interpersonal and organizational contexts.

The course will be conducted in English and is available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. There is no cost to enroll and no cost for materials. Registration begins December 1, 2013, at www.canvas.net.


Mary LahmanMary Lahman is Professor of Communication Studies at Manchester University (Indiana). She is a 1983 graduate of Manchester University and holds advanced degrees from Miami University of Ohio and Indiana University. She incorporates service-learning and appreciative inquiry into her teaching of intercultural communication, public relations, and general semantics. Other research interests include the use of online discussions to build critical thinking skills and student engagement.

Gred ThompsonGreg Thompson received his PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of Comparative Human Development. He served for two years as the Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and remains as a Research Associate with the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at UCSD. He is currently serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young University, where he studies pedagogical interactions.

Steve StockdaleSteve Stockdale holds a Masters degree in Education Psychology from the University of New Mexico. A former Executive Director of the Institute of General Semantics, he taught General Semantics for Mass Communications Practitioners for the Schieffer School of Journalism at TCU. He’s written for general semantics journals, contributed to an academic reader, and self-published an eBook, Here’s Something About General Semantics. He’s currently the IT Director and Canvas administrator for the Grants Community College campus of New Mexico State University.
MOOC information sheet