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      That's Edutainment! : Go Where No MOOC Has Gone Before

      Ball State University (BSU) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) are partnering once again to offer TCM Presents Mad about Musicals!, a free online class dedicated to the history of musicals.  The course started June 3 and continues to attract large numbers of students and features Arc, Instructure’s flexible video platform for education. This blog outlines six key lessons Dr. Rich Edwards, Executive Director for Strategic Learning at Ball State University and Shannon Clute, Director of Business Development & Strategy at Turner Classic Movies have learned from their last three edutainment courses -- Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir,  Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick, The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock.

      TMC advertisement for MOOC on Canvas Network

      Lesson 1: The “C” in “MOOC” stands for community, not course or classroom. 

      In a MOOC, massive numbers of learners transform the traditional classroom into something more resembling a community. When a MOOC brings together thousands of learners, it creates a network of knowledge that can be shared through social media and digital communication channels. For example, social media platforms, such as Twitter, can support informal learning exchanges and relationship building that parallels the spaces on a physical campus such as hallway conversations, study groups, and office hours. 

      MOOCs have been criticized for low participation rates and, in many cases, even lower completion rates. However, social media took the participation to the next level. There were over 27,000 tweets during the Film Noir course and 37,000 tweets during the Hitchcock course. This body of work is not traditionally considered part of the traditional course but it may have a place in MOOCs. 

      Lesson 2: Course communications can be content communications 

      MOOCs are meant to be innovative and creative by nature. Edwards experimented with daily microlearning bursts through “Daily Doses,” a five minute learning module that is delivered to the students, similar to a daily announcement email. The “Daily Dose” has proven extremely popular in the TCM edutainment courses and was even dubbed “Daily Doozies” in Painfully Funny. It is a way to structure a learning experience across an entire week. However, it also has the advantage of presenting course material in bite-size portions for the busy adult learner and serves as a daily reminder that the student is enrolled in an edutainment course and increases the likelihood any particular student will stay engaged in the learning process. 

      Lesson 3: Video lectures should explore digital storytelling and novel approaches to delivering content. 

      Canvas Network edutainment survey data suggests the most valued method of content delivery is video, and edutainment courses are uniquely positioned to explore the potential of video-based learning. 

      Mad About Musicals wanted to continue the tradition of course video trailer but also wanted to explore the flexible nature of videos and learner interactivity. It’s about finding the right mix of passive and interactive videos, which is why they chose to leverage Arc. With Arc’s ability to allow educators and students to comment on key points inside the video itself, contextual insights are now shared and conversations are sparked. 

      Painfully Funny wanted to explore new possibilities by bringing together sports analysis and film analysis. Both basically try to explain brief video clips for an audience but traditionally, sports analysis has had the better “tools” at its disposal for accomplishing its goals. So, TCM recruited NBA TV commentator Vince Cellini to serve as co-host alongside Edwards, and collaborated with Turner Studios on a special shoot. The co-host model more accurately resembles a teaching moment in that two people can engage in conversation, ask questions, and reflect on what has just been said. Furthermore, Edwards used a telestrator to break down and examine the elements behind slapstick in film, just as a commentator would break down a play in an NBA game. The Painfully Funny videos were shot on Studio J in Atlanta, which helped bring the whole concept together. 

      Commentators on Studio J - digital storytelling video lecture

      Edutainment courses do tend to have more resources at their disposal than the average instructor. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from your own course design or experiment with the dozens of Canvas integrations available through the EduAppCenter.  If you have been doing something innovative in your classroom with Canvas or would like to learn how you can use Canvas Network to experiment with new pedagogy or tools, then email at [email protected]

      Lesson 4: Build a social media strategy for your edutainment course

      Ball State and TCM wanted to continue to build a more effective social media engagement strategy for their edutainment courses. For the last three years, Edwards has tapped into the Immersive Learning Program at Ball State University to recruit a group of 7-9 students to form the Let’s Movie Design Studio. It is the Let’s Movie Design Studio that creates and edits many of the movie clips, gifs, games, social media tweets, and Daily Doses shared in the edutainment course and via social media. In other words, Edwards had a course that created a social media strategy for another course. Conversely, TCM is able to gain a firsthand understanding of how younger film fans connect to classic movies. 

      Let’s Movie Design Studio Students - Edutainment Course

      Above: Let’s Movie Design Studio Students at Turner’s Techwood Campus in Atlanta, GA 

      Back Row (L - R): Anthony Miglieri, Liam Higgins, Vanessa Ament, Richard Edwards, Taylor Mullins, Jessica Matthews 

      Front Row (L - R): Mikel Prater, Leah Gabbard, Dara Metcalfe, Brayton Green, Brittany Bryant. 

      Lesson 5: Encourage open-ended, participatory learning experiences that emphasize sharing, enable connection, and employ variety

      There is a tendency in some MOOCs to shy away from open-ended assignments because they are notoriously difficult to assess and measure at a large scale. However, an edutainment course should continue to explore how to leverage open-ended, participatory learning experiences because they are among the best ways to create active, insightful, and vibrant learning communities. In other words, massive open online communities (MOOCs) create opportunities for instructors to leverage entire communities to amplify their reach and create genuinely engaging learning experiences. Survey responses from students who participated in the last three edutainment courses repeatedly tell stories of how participants learned from peers, enjoyed lectures, podcasts, essays, and more. One learner shared: 

      “Before this [course] I had forgotten my love for learning!...There were so many unique ways to get involved. That made it even more interesting...even though I was one out of 20,000 students, I never would have known that. I got the attention that I needed…”

      When instructors of edutainment MOOCs focus on mobilizing the masses, stimulating conversation and inciting interest, the natural by-product is an engaged learning community. One student from the The Master of Suspense summed up her experience this way: 

      “I was super impressed! Especially with a class of this size. I'm a retired teacher, & it actually blew my mind size of class & personal responses from Professor. [It was] a very nice experience I have shared with friends & family.”

      Lesson 6: Leverage the relationship between fandom and learning  

      Edutainment courses will naturally draw fans of the topic under consideration. Fans, as the word implies, bring an extra energy (and even knowledge) to their embrace of the subject matter. The Ball State-TCM courses have actively embraced fandom when designing these courses. The Master of Suspense fans were able to share their expertise through two fan panels hosted on Shindig’s video platform. Painfully Funny fans had the opportunity to join Club Slapstick. When fans share their wealth of experience and expertise with fellow classmates, the learning experience is enriched for all.

      Canvas Network edutainment courses infuse the flair of entertainment with the rigor of academia. Signup for the course today and see for yourself the lively and engaging course experience edutainment courses produce. 

      Keep Learning,

      Hilary Melander
      Manager of Canvas Network