You may be asking yourself, what is a MOOC and how can we celebrate its success?
Let’s start by answering the first part of this question. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. This means it’s a free, interactive course, run online, and aimed at an unlimited number of participants. It usually has a start date and takes place over a number of weeks, but you can access the materials as often as you want, at a time that suits you. ‘Caring for Vulnerable Children’ is the MOOC that we developed in partnership with the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde. It explores the issues involved in identifying and caring for vulnerable children in times of austerity and shrinking public services.
So how can we celebrate its success? Well there’s three main reasons our MOOC is successful.
More than 34,500 people from at least 145 countries signed up to take part over the three runs of the course so far. In the summer months of 2014, when I started discussing the possibility of a MOOC with Graham McPheat, Senior Teaching Fellow and Course Leader of the MSc in Child and Youth Care Studies by Distance Learning, not in million years did we think it would be this successful. It’s hugely exceeded our expectations, both in terms of number of participants but also the diversity of the cohort.
In the three runs of the course that have happened so far, we’ve had a staggering 127,550 comments. This has blown both us, and FutureLearn away!
One of our main aims when developing the course was to create a community of learners. These learners could discuss their own experiences and opinions and interact with other participants. Although the course was targeted at those new to child care or those considering a career in the sector, from the comments on the course pages our participants included those who would come into contact with looked after or vulnerable children such as Children’s Panel members, social workers, teachers, nurses, foster carers, those considering, going through, or have already adopted a child, as well as participants with no background in the area at all. This led to really enriching exchanges between the participants on the course.
FutureLearn measures the interaction that happens on each of its courses and our Caring for Vulnerable Children course had 60% of our learners as social learners, meaning that they are posting comments on the course. This is the highest percentage of social learners on ANY run of ANYFutureLearn course to date! A fantastic statistic especially when compared to the FutureLearn course average of 38%. So it’s really something to shout about!
During the six weeks of the course we followed the journey of Billy. Billy’s Story is a fictional scenario of a 12-year-old boy, and the risks and vulnerabilities in his life. With each weekly instalment, we showed how Billy is impacted by his early childhood, his mum Karen’s mental health, and how the system supports a vulnerable child. Although this story is completely a work of fiction, there are many children and young people facing challenges similar to or worse than Billy in the UK today. Participants on the course really responded to Billy and his situation, with many commenting that it had brought tears to their eyes; in fact it’s brought many a tear to the eyes of my CELCIS colleagues too! In the post-course survey, Billy’s story regularly comes up as the favourite part of the course.
Overall, we’ve had some fantastic feedback about the course and Billy’s Story in particular, and this comment by Gemma Watkins on our latest run of the course really sums it up for me:
‘Thank you for such a wonderful, thought provoking and interesting course. I loved all aspects of the course, I think including the video clips about Billy and his mum kept me going when I found some aspects more challenging because I was desperate to find out what happened to them! Reading the comments was also very helpful in gaining a different perspective from my own. Doing this course has helped me in my work as an early year’s practitioner and has made me want to find out more, I feel sad that it’s over.’
So, if you want to add to our success and take part, our Caring for Vulnerable Children MOOC could be right for you.
Our new course starts on Monday 9 May and we’d love it if you could join us.
So what are you waiting for?