The Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands runs once a year a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Open Science on the edX platform: Open Science: Share your research with the world.
Our primary target is PhD candidates but the MOOC is meant also for MSc students, researchers, support staff, policy makers that want to learn the basic principles of and motivations behind Open Science. The OSMOOC has been running for multiple years with a decreasing number of enrollments and varying levels of engagement. We have high dropout rates and we do not know if the participants practice Open Science later on. Our project goal was to improve the engagement by creating a community around the MOOC participants.
Figure1: Logo of the Open Science MOOC and titles of the six modules contained in the course. Image by TU Delft and licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 International License.
Since we had both just started in our jobs as open science teachers, the first thing we hoped to learn was more about the different themes within Open Science. We also hoped that through our participation in the OLS program, we would learn more ways to engage our MOOC’s participants and build a solid community, as well as workflows and processes to make our own work more open.
Our main goal was to build a community around the Open Science MOOC, encouraging people to actively participate in our course and become active members of the Open Science community.
The first key understanding for us was the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that we loved at first sight. It was incredibly useful to tone down our (sometimes excessive) expectations and concentrate on what we could really do based on time and resources available. Since the OSMOOC 2022 run started in the middle of the OLS program (week 7), we could not implement all the new tools (e.g. project management and community building). Using the MVP concept we decided to break down our goals, focus on making the course content more engaging for the current run, and make a plan on how we would implement bigger changes for next year’s run.
We also learned through the personas and pathways assignment to critically reflect on the audience we are trying to reach with the MOOC. Perhaps the way we structure the MOOC or the times that we give the MOOC does not necessarily fit the people we are trying to reach. For example, we run our course in May-June, and thinking from the perspective of a PhD candidate or support staff, we realized that this is one of the busiest times of the academic year, which leaves little time for taking on additional courses.
A final and eye-opening understanding was that we could improve how the MOOC team works together, implementing open working practices such as contributors guidelines. Our team is made of people coming from different departments within TU Delft and working on the MOOC only for a part of the year. We talked with Emma Karoune who gave us great practical advice both on community building activities for the MOOC team and on implementing governance structure to improve communication, task divisions and responsibility.
For me (Alessandra) learning how to use Github was perfect since I had it in my bucket list for a long time but never really found the time or motivation for it. For me (Lisanne) it was great to engage with fellow open scientists using Slack, LinkedIn and Twitter. I always wanted to start using social media for my work, and now I had a reason to.
When possible, we updated the course content making it more relevant and engaging. We expanded the historical introduction to the Open Science Movement, introducing more diverse elements, such as women or people outside Europe.
Figure 2: One of the slides used in the historical introduction video about the Open Science Movement. Material created by TU Delft and licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 International License.
We also experimented with additional forms of feedback. We recorded a podcast where the module managers of FAIR software, research visibility and Citizen Science discussed the submitted assignments as well as overlapping themes in the different subjects, giving a more holistic view of the course. We also recorded a talkshow, where representatives of our six modules came together to discuss advantages, challenges and future of the different module themes.
We also found new ways to promote the MOOC, reaching additional communities via social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, university newsletters) and mailing list.
Figure 3: Screenshot of Twitter threads created during the OSMOOC to engage on social media sharing additional resources and reflections. Links of the threads in the Reference Section.
Our initial steps included a lot of brainstorming and making our goals clearer and achievable within the duration of the OLS program. Our mentor Patricia was very encouraging and supportive and created an environment where we could be ourselves and brainstorm freely, while at the same time giving us additional resources and asking us questions. The result of our brainstorming sessions was to update as much MOOC content as we could for the 2022 run of the MOOC (our MVP), and to use the tools provided by the OLS program to reflect on our project management practices and create a plan to implement changes in our practices for next year’s MOOC run.
The MOOC’s course team showed enthusiasm to improve the content, such as including a podcast and feedback videos, and this motivated us. The biweekly sessions with our mentor also really helped us to focus and reflect. We were lucky to get many helpful tips from the OLS community (for example about historical content, ways to promote the MOOC, or making courses more engaging). Finally, the OLS program materials and sessions were insightful and tools such as ‘personas and pathways’ and the ‘project development plan’ help us improve and reflect on our MOOC and our plans for next year.