Sunday, March 22, 2015

Interview with MoocLab.club's CEO Carolyn McIntyre

Ramón Talavera Franco
@Ratafra
MoocLab.club is a Forum and Community Website for Consumers and Providers of MOOCs and Online Learning to meet, share, debate and learn. The site aims to provide its users with a centralised space to interact with peers around a common theme: E-learning. Through the forums, you can ask for or give advice, debate on topical issues, find or add relevant information and keep up to date with news and insights relating to MOOCs and Online Learning.

Watch this three minutes picks from the interview
1. How (did you/somebody else) come up with the idea to create MoocLab?
My brother is Charles McIntyre, CEO & Co-Founder of IBIS Capital, a company that provides a range of asset management and investment banking services dedicated to the media sector, & Co-Founder of EdTech Europe, Europe's Leading EdTech Conference Platform which hosts an annual EdTech summit. With his deepening involvement in the EdTech field, Charles approached me to ask if I’d be interested in developing a website focussed on e-Learning.

I decided to take him up on the challenge and jacked in my Sales & Marketing job in order to throw myself full time into the project. Having had no previous experience or knowledge of the e-Learning market, I spent the first couple of months scouring the internet familiarising myself with the market and the different types of offerings that were already out there. It became apparent that there was no e-learning “hub” where I could access information and interact with others on the subject all in one centralised place. It was from this observation that the idea to create MoocLab grew.

2. Who designed and administers MoocLab? How many people are involved?
MoocLab.club is built with a community forum software called Xenforo. I spent considerable time researching the various software options that were available to me, and came to the conclusion that Xenforo was the most suitable software to build the MoocLab.club website. So, from virtually a blank screen and with a lot of trial and error (I had absolutely no coding knowledge), I gradually built MoocLab.club to look and work the way it does today. I must say, though, that the Xenforo software is designed in such a way that even complete beginners such as myself can build a community forum website relatively easily once you understand the basic functionalities of the software. It is still an ongoing process, and I imagine the look and design of MoocLab.club will continue evolve and develop. Currently, MoocLab.club is a one-woman-show!.

3. Where does the financial support come from?
To date the overhead expenses of creating MoocLab have been minimal, but any financial support that is required comes from IBIS Capital.

4. Was it difficult to launch MoocLab?
It was a case of building the website, and then making it go “live”. MoocLab.club went live on 15th September 2014. Initially, I spread the word amongst my personal contacts, hoping as many as possible would sign up and start posting. A few did, and with the help of social media, MoocLab has managed to attract other new members with an interest in e-Learning. It’s a slow process, and I never expected it to take off with a bang, but it’s all about content, and that is what I’m working on at the moment behind the scenes. There’s a lot more to come!

5. How is divided MoocLab (what sections)?
Currently, MoocLab.club is primarily made up of different forums relating to various areas of e-Learning and MOOCs. The Home Page is an overview of the site’s activities with featured and recent threads, MoocLab's Mooc Scoop (the site’s ScoopIt Page), MoocLab's Twitter feeds, popular threads and Polls. The Forums Page lists the different forums, such as “MOOC Discussions”, “MOOC Advice”, “Events”, “Apps & Websites for learning” etc. There are also forums for more specific topics, for example, different Course Providers or Subject Areas, and there is a Blog Page where members can post relevant articles if they wish to do so.

6. What kind of challenges is MoocLab facing?
The most difficult challenge at the moment is finding interesting and useful content which will attract people to the site, but more importantly, that will encourage people to sign up and engage in the discussions or start new discussions. People have busy lives or may feel shy, so you need content that makes users feel they have to comment! Good content generates more good content which can have a snowball effect. Finding that content is MoocLab’s biggest challenge.

7. Is it difficult to maintain and administer MoocLab?
As I become more familiar with the workings of the software I use, not to mention actual coding, maintaining the site becomes easier and quicker. Having said that, I still have an enormous amount of learning to do. As there currently isn’t an enormous amount of member activity on the site, my role as administrator isn’t too demanding (unfortunately!). Of course, when MoocLab.club really takes off, we will need the help of additional administrators and moderators to keep things running smoothly.

8. What is the future of MoocLab?
Online learning is a market which is growing at an alarming rate, and will continue to do so with the development of new technologies making it evolve to become more effective and more productive. This trend has led to an increasing number of different platforms and offerings available to those wishing to pursue learning online, making it difficult and sometimes overwhelming to know which are the best providers and courses, where to look and what to look for. It is MoocLab’s aim to guide and advise, with independent reviews and ratings, picking out the best choices for a particular learning pathway, and providing its users with a valuable and informative resource where they can also interact with others and share their own knowledge and experiences.

9. Do you have competitors?
Not directly, no. There are lots of social media discussion groups that have formed around MOOCs and e-learning, but that’s exactly the point…there are so many. Users have to jump around from one to the other. Currently, there is no single, open, centralised community website for e-Learning.

10. How do you see the future of MOOCs in Europe?
Although the MOOC movement is still dominated by the US, MOOCs have started to attract considerable attention in Europe with governments and universities jumping on board, and the emergence of a few European MOOC platforms, such as FutureLearn (UK), Iversity (Germany), FUN (France), Miríada X (Spain). A recent EUA (European University Association) survey on e-learning showed that of the 249 responding European higher education institutions, 75% confirmed that they either had adopted a position towards MOOCs, or were planning to do so. Of course, for many European institutions wishing to develop open courses, language is a barrier and MOOCs are likely to vary in format and purpose depending on the country and institution. I see the future of MOOCs in Europe as a complement to existing education and training provision, and they will no doubt contribute to the overall transformation in education along with other e-learning options.

11. What are the challenges for MOOCs in the years to come?
The MOOC's market is forecast to grow exponentially over the next few years. However, monetising MOOCs remains the biggest challenge for the future. The original thought behind the MOOC, free higher education for the masses, is unfortunately not sustainable as it holds no monetary value. We have already seen how the original MOOC provider platforms have introduced paid offerings, such as verified certificates. They need to find a way to generate income if they are to survive. I believe the answer lies in the corporate sector with MOOCs or SPOCs (Small Private Online Courses) being licensed to an organization or corporation for training purposes. The income, resources and experience generated can then be used to offer affordable online undergraduate courses as well as MOOCs for the wider public. The other major challenge for MOOCs is accreditation, and whether they can become credible accreditations for employers. The general current format measures learner outcomes with informal testing and quizzes without the possibility to really ensure the registered candidate is taking the assessment without the opportunities to cheat. The current security measures being offered are unfortunately not enough to provide a level of security comparable to that offered on campus.
12. Tell me about a funny experience that you have had as a MOOC student/professional.
I guess it’s more ironic than funny, but I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t yet had the time to actually do a MOOC myself! I’ve dipped into many online courses to look at content, format and features in general, but haven’t completed one from beginning to end. Given the amount of research and reading I’ve done on the subject of MOOCs over the past 8 months, I feel like a bit of a fraud!

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the most important blogs that I have seen, keep it up!Mark Hurd

    ReplyDelete