Tag Archives: MOOC

“Learner revisitation of the same MOOC: formative feedback and its impact” at the Virtual FLAN Meeting: 24.08.21

On Tuesday 28 August, 2021 I presented “Learner revisitation of the same MOOC: formative feedback and its impact”, informally known as Our course could be your life(style): formative feedback edition at the Virtual FLAN Meeting – FLAN is a network of academics and research students based at FutureLearn partner institutions, and the aim of this group is to share research, and explore shared research opportunities.

For expediency, we’ll assume that everyone is familiar with MOOCs, massive open online courses and the hopes and dreams for them to make learning available to everyone at scale, and that there’s some awareness of the huge amount of research on them as a phenomenon.

Our research was to identify the factors that contribute to learners revisiting a MOOC. We asked:

‘What can we discover about the behaviour and motivations of revisiting learners from comments in a MOOC and how can these findings inform the design of MOOCs in the future?’

Although the goal of this research was to investigate enrolment data, learner activity data and themes identified from comments made by revisiting learners between 2015 and 2020 to identify the factors that contribute to learners revisiting a MOOC, this presentation will focus on the contribution that formative feedback made to learner revisiting.

‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ (known as MIND) and the follow-up complementary ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’ (known as MINDLIFE) are four week courses, with a time commitment of 3 hours per week to work through the course material and sample each mindfulness exercise.

Each experiential course makes extensive use of video and audio as well as text-based explanations of mindfulness concepts. Quizzes, articles and additional reading are also included to provide learners with opportunities to check their understanding or dedicate more time to explore the science of mindfulness in more depth, and to provide additional information to where claims or references to research are made in the course.

Learners are strongly encouraged to watch the videos, practise the mindfulness meditations and exercises, share their ideas, reflections and experiences and join in the discussions – each run of the course features two course mentors to ensure appropriate facilitation and guidance of learners throughout the course.

So, what’s a revisiter?

For the purposes of our study, we defined a revisiter as a learner who has enrolled in more than one run of either of Monash’s mindfulness courses on FutureLearn between 2016 and 2020.

What we know. Combined, a total number of 33,990 revisiting learners joined a Monash mindfulness offering between 2015 and 2020. It’s worth noting that this number is determined by enrolments (joiners) and does not represent active learners – typically, around 4% of learners leave a course run.

It’s also worth noting the varying number of revisits, so there were joiners who revisited a monash mindfulness course from as many as 14 times (12 learners) incrementally down to revisiting 2 times (21,321 learners).

A lot of time was spent exploring the comments. Initial thematic analysis of the comments revealed core themes of:

  • Revisiting
  • Community
  • Observed outcomes

Of note are the themes of:

  • Content approval – identified the value of the course content (videos, written content, mindfulness meditations and exercises, and bespoke weekly feedback videos).
  • Course team – celebrated and valued the contribution made by the course team – the lead educators and course mentors.

How formative feedback fits within the themes of content approval and course team.

Video is the primary means of content delivery in a Monash mindfulness courses. 

Besides pre-recorded course content, video is also created in response to learner activity and plays a critical role in enabling educators and course instructors to provide formative feedback to learners throughout the delivery of the course.

Henderson and Phillips (2015) reported that the affordances of video enable instructors to convey detailed and elaborate feedback as well as encouragement and praise to learners more so than written commentary.

They also reported positive learner response to video-based feedback, where learners felt they had a closer connection with the instructors or educators. Echoing the reports from Henderson and Phillips are learner reviews posted on Class Central, a search engine and review website for free online courses.

The use of video-based feedback in this capacity not only addresses any potential knowledge deficit experienced by learners, ‘makes the massive feel intimate’, but also personalised the course in a meaningful and practical way, while actively contributing to the change in learner perceptions of the course as the type where an ‘instructor is not as available because there are tens of thousands of others in the class’

Because weekly feedback videos by the lead educators are freshly recorded at the end of each week of each run of MIND and MINDLIFE they deeply personalise the course experience for learners.

Responding this way to learners helps cultivate a unique currency for learners to contextualise their experience to immediately relatable personal and emerging (local and global) situations that may benefit from the application of mindfulness practices.  

Formative feedback modality – presence of the course team

For learners in an online course like a MOOC with potentially thousands of learners, a course team presence is a crucial component that ensures the facilitation and guidance of discussions and interaction between the learners so they can have a rewarding experience. 

Learner reviews about Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance on Class Central revealed the contribution of the presence of the course team as mode for formative feedback.

A learner review on the course description of MIND noted the course team as being like mindfulness companions. 

Revisiting learners greatly valued the efforts made by the course team to connect the conversation in the course comments (with the course mentors) to the conversation (between the lead educators) in the weekly feedback videos. 

Typical comments made by revisiting learners in relation to the theme of the course team include references to the lead educator’s capacity to model mindful behaviour and attitudes with their relaxed non-judgmental approach that help build a bond of trust and confidence between them and the learners. 

Learners also noted how the course mentors help frame course content and provide additional support (in the comments and in the feedback videos) as the course progresses.

Some clear conclusions about our revisiting learners. First time course participants may join for the content, but then choose to revisit for the community, course team, content updates and the impact that revisiting has on the way they act and feel. 

Analysis of the comments revealed learners revisit because they’ve been able to cultivate a greater awareness of emotions, attitudes, stress response and how to manage them, and establish or continue their formal mindfulness practice, but benefit from ongoing participation in the course as a reminder to re-establish their lapsed mindfulness practice. 

This highlights the importance of the value that revisiters place on a sense of community or affinity of a group of like-minded people that support each other throughout the course. This is connected to the role of the course team, where the way the course team engages, interacts and models mindful behaviour to learners, which is another contributing factor for revisiting. 

What learnings are there for course designers?

Understanding the factors that contribute to learner revisiting is of interest to all organisations that offer online learning experiences (particularly those that are experiential or open-ended with no logical conclusion) because it may provide insights on how to best design, develop and deliver the experience. 

When cultivating opportunities for formative feedback, designers need to:

  • ensure opportunities for conversation and rich discussion and a strong presence of the educators/course team.
  • consider how different modalities can be used to cultivate an educator presence and interactions between learners.

Know your customer (KYC) – consider learner archetype e.g., FutureLearn’s ‘Flourisher’ and ‘Fixer’ learner archetypes – their motivations go beyond learning about mindfulness, and extend into life outside of the course. 

To support this, course design could create opportunities for these learners to further embed what they’ve learned into a lifelong practice by providing access to content (for offline use/outside of course) and tools (apps, journal templates, downloadable checklists) for learners to practice and also reflect on their experience. 

Many thanks for attending the session – I hope you found it interesting.

References

Adamopoulos, P 2013, ‘What makes a great MOOC? An interdisciplinary analysis of student retention in online courses’, In Thirty fourth international conference on information systems, Milan.

Henderson, M & Phillips, M 2015, ‘Video-based feedback on student assessment: scarily personal’, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 51-66.  

Hew, KF 2014, ‘Promoting engagement in online courses: what strategies can we learn from three highly rated MOOCS’, British Journal of Educational Technology (Online First), http://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12235.

The New York Times 2012, ‘The Year of the MOOC’, retrieved 21 July 2018, <https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html>.

FutureLearn 2018, ‘Who are our Learners? Part 1: What we did and why’, retrieved 5 September 2020, <https://www.futurelearn.com/info/press/research-insights/learners-part-1>.

FutureLearn 2019, ‘Learner archetypes’, retrieved 1 August 2020, <https://partners.futurelearn.com/hc/en-us/articles/360034529654-Learner-archetypes>.

Class Central 2018, ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’, retrieved 20 June 2020, <https://www.class-central.com/course/futurelearn-maintaining-a-mindful-life-9078#reviews>.

Class Central 2018, ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’, retrieved 20 June 2020, <https://www.class-central.com/course/futurelearn-mindfulness-for-wellbeing-and-peak-performance-3714#reviews>.

Chambers, R 2020, ‘What is Mindfulness & Why Does It Matter?’, retrieved 18 September 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsIXw4GGZZw>.

Chambers, R & Hassed, C 2015, ‘Mindfulness: how not to be driven to distraction in this modern world’, retrieved 1 September 2020, <https://www.futurelearn.com/info/blog/mindfulness-how-not-to-be-driven-to-distraction-in-this-modern-world>.

Our course could be your life(style): Tales of MOOC revisiting learners 2015-2020

Abstract

Many studies have identified crucial factors that impact learner engagement in online courses, particularly free to join courses like MOOCs and have explored aspects of openness, freeness, production values, retention strategies and the impact of MOOCs on digital teaching and learning, but little has been said about learners who continue to revisit the same MOOC, their intention to revisit and then their behaviour when actually revisiting. This study explored the unique learner cohort of an open-ended skills-based MOOC and through the analysis of learner comments, it examined the behaviour, motivations and factors that contributed to learners revisiting the same MOOC over a five year period from 2015 to 2020. This study found that learners may first join the course for the content, but then choose to revisit for the community, course educators, content updates and enhancements, and for the impact that revisiting has on their behaviour and emotions. This study also found that a significant number of learners revisited, some up to 10 times in consecutive sequence, while others revisited in a syncopated pattern. While the outcomes from this study may not be generalisable to MOOCs for all topic areas, insights gained may be of interest to designers curious about creating flexible, social, practical and skills-based experiences for lifelong learners.

Introduction

Since their emergence in the mid-2000s, massive open online courses (MOOC) have been predicated on making learning available to everyone, and at scale. Much effort has been spent analysing data generated by MOOC participants (eg., Guo, Kim & Rubin 2014; Savage 2009; Wang 2017) across a variety of MOOCs (eg., Engle, Mankoff & Carbrey 2015; Hew & Cheung 2008; Taib, Chuah & Aziz 2017) to determine if video production methods (format, style, type and duration) and pedagogical dimensions (cooperative learning, feedback, activities and assessments) are crucial for cultivating an engaging learning experience. However, few studies have examined the specific cohorts of students who revisit and their behaviour and motivations for revisiting.

The purpose of this research is to identify the factors that contribute to learners revisiting a MOOC. In order to identify those factors we asked:

‘What can we discover about the behaviour and motivations of revisiting learners from comments in a MOOC and how can these findings inform the design of MOOCs in the future?

MOOC learners

Many learners take MOOCs to develop or build-on existing skills to enhance their future employability, shape a goal for further study, connect with people, understand basic concepts or general understanding and satisfy their curiosity (Zheng, Rosson, Shih and Carrol 2015). Laurillard (2014) noted that a number of previous studies have shown that most MOOC users are already well educated. In Coursera MOOCs, for example, an average of 85% of participants have one or more degrees. For London and Edinburgh-based MOOCs offered in 2013, the figure was around 70%. In their examination of learners taking a five-week ‘Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization’ MOOC, Liu, Kang and McKelroy (2015) found the top two reasons for taking the MOOC were to learn more about the topic for personal reasons (employment prospects/career readiness) and for their current job. Other main reasons included learning about future career possibilities, what MOOCs are like, getting course materials, and learning from specific instructor(s). Achieving a certificate (of completion) and engaging with MOOC takers as a community of learners were also listed as reasons for taking the MOOC, but resulted in fewer responses. The results from interviews by Zheng et al., (2015) with learners about their reasons for taking a MOOC support findings of Liu et al., (2015), where learners revealed they took MOOCs to fulfil their current study needs, help their current position (as a student or in the workplace), develop a social connection with others who shared similar interests and also to prepare for future job opportunities or to gain experience in a field they might study in a more formal manner after taking the MOOC (Zheng et al. 2015).

Reasons for learners taking a MOOC were further explored by Xiong, Kornhaber, Suen, Pursel & Goins (2015), where they defined a general interest in taking a MOOC as intrinsic motivation, taking a MOOC for external rewards, such as earning a certificate as extrinsic motivation, and taking a MOOC for connecting with others as social motivation. As observed by Crues, Bosch, Anderson, Perry, Bhat and Shaik (2018), to this end, the subject matter of the course was also indicative of the reason a learner might take a MOOC.

Engle, Mankoff and Carbrey (2015) noted that understanding MOOC students and the characteristics that lead to their success will enable modification to courses for increased student achievement, while Hew and Cheung (2008) explored how to promote student contribution in asynchronous online discussions and Taib, Chuah and Aziz (2017) investigated four unique MOOCs using Assessing MOOC Pedagogy (AMP) to characterise ten pedagogical dimensions (1) Epistemology, (2) Role of teacher, (3) Focus of activities, (4) Structure, (5) Approach to content, (6) Feedback, (7) Co-operative learning, (8) Accommodation of individual differences, (9) Activities or assessments, and (10) User role. These factors noted by research carried out across a variety of MOOCs (eg., Engle, Mankoff & Carbrey 2015; Hew & Cheung 2008; Taib, Chuah & Aziz 2017) may seem elementary for a single instance or one-off run of a MOOC, but what of revisiting learners – those learners who repeatedly join and then continue to actively participate in the same MOOC over multiple instances? An example of this cohort would be the learners who continue to participate in Monash University’s ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/mindfulness-wellbeing-performance) and ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’ (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/mindfulness-life) free to join courses on FutureLearn.

Mindfulness at Monash

Mindfulness is an everyday experience. It’s about being fully present and fully engaged in each moment in our lives (Chambers 2020). Mindfulness is associated with paying attention and the evidence is suggesting that (training the attention and) learning to pay attention may be the most important skill we ever learn (Hassed n.d.) – it helps us to focus; to stay on task; to communicate more effectively and empathically; to not get caught in cycles of rumination and worry; and to enjoy life more, including life’s simple pleasures (Chambers & Hassed 2015).

The development of ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ (MIND) and the follow-up complementary ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’ (MINDLIFE) emerged from Monash’s long term interest in the application of mindfulness in education settings and a partnership with UK-based online learning platform FutureLearn, which culminated in the first run of MIND in 2015 (Chambers & Hassed 2015).
Since then, a total of 328,091 learners enrolled in MIND across its 14 runs, while a total of 67,690 learners enrolled in MINDLIFE across its 8 runs since 2017. Class Central, an online course aggregator, reports that FutureLearn listed MIND as the fifth most popular courses by enrollment numbers since their first release (Bowden 2019). MIND and MINDLIFE are also listed on Class Central’s Top 100 online courses of all time – a status based on reviews written by Class Central users.

While both courses are predicated on mindfulness, in MIND learners cultivate mindfulness techniques to reduce stress and improve wellbeing and work/study performance (possibly for the first time). In MINDLIFE, learners cultivate mindfulness techniques to improve their communication, relationships and emotional health – it builds upon the introductory MIND course and demonstrates to learners how to embed mindfulness into all aspects of life.

MIND and MINDLIFE are four week courses (although MIND was originally designed as a six week course and remained so from Run 1 to Run 7) with a time commitment of 3 hours per week to work through the course material and sample each mindfulness exercise. Sections of each course make extensive use of video (didactic content and bespoke weekly wrap-ups from lead educators) and audio (mindfulness meditations and exercises) as well as text-based explanations of mindfulness concepts. Quizzes, articles and additional reading are also included to provide learners with opportunities to check their understanding or dedicate more time to explore the science of mindfulness in more depth, and to provide additional information to where claims or references to research are made in the course. Given the experiential nature of the courses, learners are strongly encouraged to watch the videos, practise the mindfulness meditations and exercises, share their ideas, reflections and experiences and join in the discussions – each run of the course features two course mentors to ensure appropriate facilitation of the course.

Our learners

Demographic data identifies MIND and MINDLIFE learners to originate from many countries around the world, with the highest number of learners from the United Kingdom, Australia, United States of America, followed by India, Canada, Ireland, Spain, France and New Zealand. Demographic data is gathered via an optional survey at the enrolment stage of the learner journey. For gender, of those learners who responded to the survey, 76% of learners identified as female while 22% identified as male, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Gender reported by respondents

For employment status, 32% of respondents revealed they work full time, 23% are retired, 14% work part-time and 10% are self-employed, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Employment status reported by respondents

For the age group, 22% were aged above 65 years of age, 22% aged between 56 and 65, 18% aged 46 and 55, and 15% aged 36 and 45, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Age reported by respondents

Our learners are mostly female, over 36 years of age and employed, which is interesting when compared to enrolment patterns and gender distribution found in MOOCs related to programming, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM courses), who have a greater number of male learners (Glass, Shiokawa‐Baklan & Saltarelli 2016; Williams, Stafford, Corliss & Reilly 2018).

Literature review

Previous studies have identified a range of factors which impact on learner engagement with MOOCs. Given the freeness (no cost to join) of earlier MOOCs, low or no vested interest has been linked to low completion rates (Petronzi & Hadi 2016). Lack of engagement on MOOCs may be due to factors such as connectivity, digital skills, time zones, and institutional power dynamics (Walji, Deacon, Small & Czerniewicz 2016), or even disaffection with forum and peer-related issues (Hew, 2018). As noted by Walji et al. (2016), simply using a (MOOC) platform that promotes social learning is, of course, not enough for engaged learning to happen. Other studies identified factors that MOOC learners find engaging in large-scale open online courses, for example Hew, Quao & Tang (2016) surfaced themes in their data of structure and pace, video, instructors, content and resources, interaction and support, and assignments and assessments. These themes were surfaced by carrying out a machine learning classifier to analyse 24,612 reflective sentences posted by 5,884 students, who participated in one or more of 18 highly rated MOOCs. While an analysis of three top-rated MOOCs in the disciplines of programming languages, literature, and arts & design undertaken by Hew (2016) revealed problem-centric learning with clear expositions, instructor accessibility and passion, peer interaction, active learning, and course resources to address participant learning needs to be design factors found in a well-received MOOC.

Literature review

Previous studies have identified a range of factors which impact on learner engagement with MOOCs. Given the freeness (no cost to join) of earlier MOOCs, low or no vested interest has been linked to low completion rates (Petronzi & Hadi 2016). Lack of engagement on MOOCs may be due to factors such as connectivity, digital skills, time zones, and institutional power dynamics (Walji, Deacon, Small & Czerniewicz 2016), or even disaffection with forum and peer-related issues (Hew, 2018). As noted by Walji et al. (2016), simply using a (MOOC) platform that promotes social learning is, of course, not enough for engaged learning to happen. Other studies identified factors that MOOC learners find engaging in large-scale open online courses, for example Hew, Quao & Tang (2016) surfaced themes in their data of structure and pace, video, instructors, content and resources, interaction and support, and assignments and assessments. These themes were surfaced by carrying out a machine learning classifier to analyse 24,612 reflective sentences posted by 5,884 students, who participated in one or more of 18 highly rated MOOCs. While an analysis of three top-rated MOOCs in the disciplines of programming languages, literature, and arts & design undertaken by Hew (2016) revealed problem-centric learning with clear expositions, instructor accessibility and passion, peer interaction, active learning, and course resources to address participant learning needs to be design factors found in a well-received MOOC.

Irrespective of the learner’s inclination for undertaking learning, the opportunity must be flexible and permit the learner drop-in and out at their discretion, often at intervals throughout their life, much like ‘a personal learning continuum, rather than as unrelated, separate gatherings’ (Bozkurt & Keefer 2018). Communities that foster a culture of participatory learning contribute to the premise of lifelong learning, something to be part of, a sense ‘that the teaching and learning experience, the idea of imagining where you stand within that environment is something that’s akin to the DIY punk experience’ (Groom 2016). While it is possible for an online course to cultivate an environment for this type of experience, it’s an environment that is suited for a learner that is self-determined, attentive, can think critically, reason, and is ready to collaborate (Pegrum 2009). The presence of instructors is critical, where they support learners, the development of a community of learning, all the while gently guiding learners through the course. These varying reasons elicit the question as to why learners continue to participate and persist with a course and continue to engage in the community of learning.

As MOOCs are voluntary, is it possible that learners simply enjoy being part of a community or their goals to deepen their knowledge and skills are being met, or is it the convenience, ease of use and flexibility afforded by the platform, or possibly even something else entirely that’s related to their individual needs that’s being served?

Revisiter: defining the repeat MOOC learner

For the purposes of this study, a revisiter is a learner who has enrolled in more than one run of either of Monash’s mindfulness course on FutureLearn between 2016 and 2020, with some learners having revisited since the first run of MIND in 2015. Returning and re-take are terms used in other studies to describe repeated participation.

As a phenomenon, there’s not a lot of research available on the motivations of returning MOOC learners. In their investigation of learners returning to a teacher professional development MOOC, Chen, Fan, Zhang & Qiong (2017) found that learners were possibly motivated by the opportunity to improve their grades, refresh their theoretical understanding, and solve practical problems. Although the focus of their study was learner intention to revisit, Huang, Zhang & Liu (2017) found vividness, teacher subject knowledge and interactivity to be effective towards revisiting. Viewing returning learners through a non-MOOC lens, Woodgate, Macleod, Scott & Haywood (2015) note how it’s uncommon for students to re-take higher education courses, given the cost, time commitment and other regulations that may limit participation. As they also note, the affordances of MOOCs (openness and freeness) creates opportunities for students to re-take a course and then engage in mastery learning, a philosophy and set of instructional strategies (Guskey 2012) designed to promote a student’s capacity to practise a skill or knowledge. Because mindfulness is an open-ended skill that requires perseverance and time for learning, which are two key variables that promote mastery learning (Bloom 1968), the recurring runs of MIND and MINDLIFE create opportunities for learners to join and revisit the courses due to their no natural limit to continuation or expansion (Degree of Freedom 2013).

What other motivations are there for learners to revisit? On the course description of MIND on FutureLearn, learners noted the flexibility of the course content and design, its capacity for enabling mastery learning and its applicability to changing personal and world events, stating

‘Despite this being a re-run, the content was kept up-to-date with current situations and the application of mindfulness as an aid to dealing with the impact that the pandemic is having felt very relevant’,

‘Excellent course and perfect during COVID-19’,

‘I found this course particularly useful and pertinent in this time of COVID, but I am sure in life generally’,

‘I started this course during our most recent lockdown, and found that the course content and mindfulness practice couldn’t have come at a better time’

and
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this course and the way it was presented. I have learnt a great deal and I have found this very useful especially during COVID-19 and working from home’.

Learners (Class Central 2018) who participated in either or both of the mindfulness-related offerings by Monash reported

‘The two courses that I have been blessed with the opportunity to do on a number of ocassions [sic] have really enhanced the quality of not just my life but those who share their lives with me in any way. I am simply a better person for the learnings that I have had through undertaking the courses’,

‘I have found the leaders, […], really engaging and great role models for their subject, being calm, measured and reassuring, but also inspirational and encouraging. The strength of the course is their rapport in the short videos and audios which acknowledge human frailty and make the continuing practice of mindfulness seem vital and attainable in daily life.’

‘I plan to take the course again when it is offered in November, so I can delve more deeply into this more authentic way of viewing the world and living my life’.

These statements go some way to providing some insight into ongoing learner participation. Furthermore, the learner sentiment expressed towards the mindfulness related offerings is somewhat akin to the model proposed by Peltier, Drago, and Schibrowsky (2003), that identified student-to-student interactions, student-instructor interactions and instructor support and mentoring, as well as course content, course structure and information delivery technology to key components to learner perceived quality of the online learning experience.

Vividness is defined as the quality of being very clear, powerful and detailed in your mind (Campbell, Fuller & Hess 2009). When applied to digital experiences, through the use of multimedia components such as video, text, voice and animation, for example, vividness is a media capability (Campbell et al. 2009) that should engage and fully immerse the user in a sensorially rich mediated environment that appeals to multiple senses (Coyle & Thurston 2001) that are associated with increased feelings of being elsewhere. While multimedia vividness is associated with increased feelings of telepresence, vividness of course content in a MOOC (which are often sensorially rich mediated environments) has been found to be positively associated with a student’s intention to revisit (Huang, Zhang & Liu 2017), meaning an individual’s readiness or willingness to make a repeat visit to the same destination (Stylos, Vassiliadis, Bellou & Andronikidis 2016).

The role of video

Although the use of video isn’t exclusive to MOOCs, video is the primary means of content delivery. Each MOOC is unique, where educators, course content designers and producers work together to create video content that makes use of a diverse combination of video types (text, static image, image and presenter face/talking head and fully animated) and video design elements (static slides, digital ink/scribbler/analysis, discussion/discursive), that complements the pedagogical approach. The impact of video production on learning is of great interest to educators and MOOC producers. Guo, Kim and Rubin (2014) found that videos of short duration are engaging to learners. An equal level of engagement was identified for video types that featured the ‘talking head’ of a presenter or used digital ink/scribbler/analysis to provide a more detailed explanation. Neilson (2014) and Savage (2009) support the approach of videos of short duration. To maintain learner engagement, Neilson (2014) recommended that videos should combine different video types and design elements, such as a presenter face/talking head with a digital ink/scribbler/analysis – instructors who sketched Khan-style tutorials could situate themselves “on the same level” as the student rather than talking at the student in “lecturer mode” (Guo et al. 2014).

Multiple studies have investigated the role of cinematography and cinema production design/methodology on learner engagement. In his research, Wang (2017) identified camera shot style and background design ‘down to the granularity of how the image is captured, recorded and delivered’ (Wang 2017) to be as equally as important as video types and video design elements on learner attention and engagement. In addition, Wang, Chen and Wu (2015) observed the impact of different video types and video design elements on learning.

They concluded that the production cost and intensity associated with creating ‘lecture capture and picture-in-picture videos may be worthwhile for online learning from the perspectives of improved learning performance and reduced cognitive load’ (Wang, Chen and Wu 2015). The use of video isn’t reduced only to pre-prepared and pre-recorded content that contributes to the course material. Video can also be created in response to learner activity and play a critical role in enabling educators and course instructors to provide feedback to learners throughout the delivery of the course. Henderson and Phillips (2015) reported that the affordances of video enable instructors to convey detailed and elaborate feedback as well as encouragement and praise to learners more so than written commentary. Henderson and Phillips (2015) also reported positive learner response to video-based feedback, where learners felt they had a closer connection with the instructors or educators. Echoing the reports from Henderson and Phillips are learner reviews posted on Class Central, a search engine and review website for free online courses,

‘The final feedback video each week is the jewel in their crown. It sums up the week’s thoughts and mentions some of the issues and talking points brought up in the online comments’,

‘Weekly feedback on YouTube responds to learners questions and comments as they have arisen that week’

and
‘The weekly feedback sessions allowed the participants to feel engaged and gave a more personal feel to an online course’ (Class Central 2018).

The use of video-based feedback in this capacity not only addresses any potential knowledge deficit experienced by learners, ‘makes the massive feel intimate’ (Pappano 2018), but also personalised the course in a meaningful and practical way, while actively contributing to the change in learner perceptions of the course as the type where an ‘instructor is not as available because there are tens of thousands of others in the class’ (Pappano 2012).

Because the feedback videos by the lead educators are recorded at the end of each week during each run of MIND and MINDLIFE they help personalise the course experience for learners. Learners from MIND shared their thoughts on the use of feedback videos on the course description of FutureLearn,

‘The review at the end of each week shows the comments of learners are read and taken note so you feel everyone is really involved’

and
‘I really liked the use of video, particularly the end of week round-ups’.

While video plays a vital role in the delivery of course content and as a mechanism for feedback to learners of Monash’s mindfulness offerings, it also plays an important role as edutainment, that is, content that is primarily educational but has incidental entertainment value (Zheng et al. 2015). These edutainment videos are made produced during each run publicly available via the Monash Mindfulness YouTube channel and act as exclusive (and responsive to global events and/or collective learner discussion, COVID-19, for example) supplementary content for learners to watch in their spare time (without joining the course) as well as standalone content to increase awareness of Monash mindfulness offerings to non-learners. Responding this way to learners helps cultivate a unique currency for learners to contextualise their experience to immediately relatable personal and emerging (local and global) situations that may benefit from the application of mindfulness practices.

To this end, the use of video in Monash’s mindfulness offerings makes a crucial contribution to the course design and delivery and learners intention to revisit.

The educator presence

For learners in an online course like a MOOC with potentially thousands of learners, a course team presence (educators, instructors, course mentors) is a crucial component that ensures the facilitation and guidance of discussions and interaction between the learners so they can have a rewarding experience. According to Hew (2014), instructor accessibility and passion are some of the features that were identified as key for promoting learner engagement, where engagement is defined as an observable action in the course. While engagement is different from completion and retention (which in MOOCS, are an often misconstrued metric devised by educators and platform providers for defining their view of learner success, satisfaction, needs or goals), an analysis by Adamopoulos (2013) revealed that the role of the instructor did have the largest possible effect on the likelihood of completion.

Learner reviews about Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance on Class Central stated
‘In addition to this there are two outstanding mentors who support the learning and help clarify the more scientific aspects of the course and make lots of useful links and resourses [sic] available to enable the independant [sic] exploration of a complex subject’,

‘The moderators are extremely active in their support for learners’

and
‘The mentors had valuable insights and comments and added a lot’ (Class Central 2018).

A learner review on the course description of MIND noted
‘How valuable it is to have meditation and mindfulness companions. Yes, they are online but the videos and discussion areas plus feedback as well as the teachers plus mentors make you feel that you are with real people — people who care about you and your progress.’

These reviews echo the findings of Adamopoulos (2013) and Pilli & Admiraal (2017) in relation to learner interaction with an instructor, where learner retention and satisfaction is higher when instructors are highly responsive. However, some earlier literature on MOOCS (Kop 2011; Mackness 2013; Milligan & Littlejohn 2014) seemingly bemoan the absence of interaction between instructors and learners, asserting that learners may be prevented from having a quality learning experience due to their limited capacity to undertake self-directed learning. In the past, a diminished learning experience may have been inevitable, considering the vintage of the online environment in which their learner cohort was constrained (the anti-social EdX platform and the hardcore Connectivist Edupunk-ness of the open web). Since the launch of FutureLearn, an online learning platform that’s been ‘inspired by Laurillard’s Conversational Framework’ (Sánchez-Vera, Maria del Mar, Leon Urrutia, Manuel, Davis & Hugh 2015), a diminished online learning experience could potentially be less likely as the platform is predicated on a social learning experience, instructor to learner, learner to learner and learner to content. In learning, and likewise online, there is no escape from the need for dialogue, no room for mere telling, nor for practice without description, nor for experimentation without reflection, nor for student action without feedback (Laurillard, 2001). According to Mill (2008), Laurillard divides her learning conversation into four phases, where learners encounter (1) a discursive phase that introduces learners to new concepts and allowing them to try out the idea and its corresponding language, questioning and clarifying, (2) an interactive phase in which learners interact with tasks and attempt to apply the new concept and get feedback on their performance, (3) an adaptive phase in which learners apply their own ideas to the practice, modify their ideas and adapt based on what they’ve learned, and (4) a reflective phase in which learners consider their experience of the interactive and adaptive phase, reflect on their learning, relate theory back to their practice, adjust their thinking based on their reflection and frame future actions to be more successful.

Research gap

As demonstrated in the review of the literature, previous MOOC research identified structure and pace, video, content, instructors, interaction and support and assignments as contributing factors to learner engagement in a MOOC, while factors such as connectivity, digital skills, time zones, or even peer related issues may contribute to lack of engagement. It’s worth noting that most literature relating to engagement and retention is associated with learners staying in a course rather than returning or revisiting the same course, which is different. Analysis of three top-rated MOOCs also revealed problem-centric learning with clear expositions, instructor accessibility and passion, peer interaction, active learning, and course resources to address participant learning needs to be design factors found in a well-received MOOC.

People undertake learning for personal and professional reasons: to increase their knowledge and skills that benefit themselves and others, and to maintain or improve their knowledge and skills. Given these different reasons, the learning opportunity must be flexible enough to enable the learner to drop-in and out at intervals throughout their life – these intervals of learning most likely occur with a community of like-minded individuals. While online communities that foster a culture of participatory learning contribute to the premise of lifelong learning, these environments are suited for learners that are self-determined, attentive, can think critically, reason and ready to collaborate.

The openness and freeness of MOOCs create opportunities for learners to ‘re-take’ a course, which is uncommon with higher education courses. Re-taking a course enables learners to practise and continue to master a skill or knowledge which is ideal for MOOCs about cultivating open-ended skills (with no natural limit to continuation or expansion) that require perseverance and time for learning. MOOCs are often sensorially rich mediated environments with the quality of vividness. This quality has been found to be positively associated with an individual’s readiness or willingness to make a repeat visit.

Video is the primary means of content delivery in MOOCs, which has contributed to the great interest by researchers into video production. Researchers identified that videos should combine a number of different video types, design elements, cinematography and design methodology to maintain learner engagement. Video can also be used responsively to provide feedback and engage learners throughout delivery of the MOOC, which helps to cultivate a personal connection. The presence and responsiveness of the course team (educators, instructors, course mentors) to guide and facilitate learners is a crucial component to a rewarding MOOC experience, and the largest possible effect on the likelihood of completion.

Many researchers have explored aspects of openness, freeness, impacts of MOOCs on digital teaching and learning, learner demographics, enrolments, motivation and retention (Veletsianos & Shephardson 2016; Zhu, Sari & Lee 2018), sentiment analysis of discussion forums (Wen, Yang & Rosé 2014) or even hype (Fischer 2014). While these research areas of interest were inherent to the early MOOC phenomenon before the MOOC pivot where courses and content were moved partially or fully behind paywalls (Reich & Ruipérez-Valiente 2019), little has been said about learners who continue to revisit the same course, their intention to revisit and then their behaviour when actually revisiting.

Learner behaviour and their motivations for revisiting the same course are missing from the current research area related to the design, development and delivery of digital experiences like MOOCs, and therefore is the focus of this study. The goal of this research is to investigate enrolment data, learner activity data and themes identified from comments made by revisiting learners between 2015 and 2020 to identify the factors that contribute to learners revisiting a MOOC. This investigation hopes to reveal findings that can inform design decisions of similar MOOCs in the future.

Research methodology

Methodology

For researchers who want to develop a better understanding of the experiences and motivations of learners in a MOOC, comments made by learners in the MOOC provide a rich and authentic data source that can provide invaluable insights because they can potentially reveal the underlying reasons for learner activity. For this study, quiz responses, step activity and enrolment information as well as learner comments were used to uncover revisiting learners – these data sets are made readily available to partners of FutureLearn. By using available data sets from FutureLearn rather than independently surveying learners, it is possible to link freshly caught ‘wild comments’ made by learners to their level of engagement, activity and number of times they revisited the MOOC. Using available data sets also means that the comments are taken from the ‘wild’ or made within the naturally occurring context of their learning and course revisiting experience and not in response to an additional survey. The use of freshly caught comments isn’t without its problems, mainly the lack of clarity and directness generally afforded by survey questions. These comments require analysis, thematic coding, interpretation and distillation of themes have potential to lack precision. Using a survey, revisiting learners could be invited to respond to questions asking them specifically about their revisiting, their reasons for doing so, and explore the behavioural and affective outcomes of their revisiting, and more. Although the use of a survey may result in more direct responses, this approach is challenged by being optional and not strictly related to the course experience, which may reduce the number and consistency of interested respondents (particularly revisiting learners) over time. It’s worth noting that the FutureLearn platform does permit partners to invite learners to participate in research, but given the constraints of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its impact on direct communication with learners, the potential for an invitation to reach a large number of learners (from current and past course runs) is extremely limited.

To further investigate the outcomes identified in the comments, case studies of a small group of visiting learners were undertaken to develop a better understanding of their motivations and underlying behaviour and emotions. While the use of case studies provide a unique opportunity to find out more about an individual learner or small instance of learners in a real life context, their usefulness in telling a broader story about revisiting learners may be limited.

Research methods

This project has approval from the Deakin University Arts and Education Faculty Human Ethics Advisory Group (HAE-20-081). This project is based on data sets from each run of MIND and MINDLIFE which were made available to Monash University from FutureLearn for research purposes in a de-identified form. The data consists of de-identified:

  • student comments from runs of the course between 2015 and 2020 made by students during the course of their learning
  • data analytics of student engagement with different steps in the course (number of clicks, time on page, number of comments, number of replies)
  • enrolments, demographics (age and country), sentiment and survey data (pre-course, leaving).

This data has been collected by FutureLearn and used by Monash University as a partner institution to monitor and improve learning and teaching within the MOOC over a number of iterations of the course. While the data-sets used for this research are provided in a de-identified form, it would be possible for students, teachers and moderators in the specific iteration of the MOOC to go back into the MOOC, search for a specific comment, and identify the public profile of the student who made that comment. For this reason, no comments will be quoted in the research paper or any subsequent publications to ensure no student is able to be identified from the outcomes of this research. Learners have consented to this use of the data as part of the Terms and Conditions (Privacy Policy/Research ethics) of their enrolment with FutureLearn. This includes their consent to their data being used for research purposes, and an acknowledgement by the learners that their comments will not be quoted directly in any publications without their permission. Data sets of learner enrolment, step activity and learner comments in comma separated values (CSV) file format were sourced from course runs between 2015 and 2020 of Monash University’s ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ (MIND) and ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’ (MINDLIFE) free to join courses on FutureLearn. Data from MINDLIFE was investigated and no further additional information as found, so this study focuses on MIND.

Table 1 lists the title, run number, date and labelling of each data set sourced from MIND and MINDLIFE used for this research.

Table 1. Data source

 Course  Run number  Start date  Label
 MIND  1  Monday 14 September, 2015  R1
 MIND  2  Monday 8 February, 2016  R2
 MIND  4  Monday 23 May, 2016 R4
 MIND  5  Monday 19 September, 2016  R5
 MIND  6  Monday 6 February, 2017  R6
 MIND  7  Monday 15 May, 2017  R7
 MIND  8  Monday 2 October, 2017 R8
 MIND  9  Monday 5 February, 2018  R9
 MIND  11  Monday 7 May, 2018  R11
 MIND  12  Monday 1 October, 2018  R12
 MIND  13  Monday 4 March, 2019  R13
 MIND  14  Monday 1 July, 2019  R14
 MIND  15  Monday 7 October, 2019  R15
 MIND  16  Monday 16 March, 2020  R16
 MINDLIFE  1  Monday 13 November, 2017  R1
 MINDLIFE  2  Monday 11 June, 2018  R2
 MINDLIFE  3  Monday 23 July, 2018  R3
 MINDLIFE  4  Monday 1 April, 2019  R4
 MINDLIFE  5  Monday 27 May, 2019  R5
 MINDLIFE  6  Monday 15 November, 2019  R6
 MINDLIFE  7  Monday 19 February, 2020  R7
 MINDLIFE  8  Monday 29 May, 2020  R8

It’s worth noting that Run 3 and Run 10 of MIND were not included as data sources because they were closed/private runs of the course, which meant learner comments, learner activity and even motivation for joining the course would be incongruent with the open/free to join course offering.

The CSV files were imported into Microsoft Excel and then exported as Microsoft Excel files for greater flexibility and utility. Quantitative analysis of enrolment data was carried out in Excel. Because FutureLearn considers team members as enrolments, additional work was done to remove course team members (lead educators, course mentors, course developers and designers) and reviewers (non-team members/miscellaneous personnel) from all data sets to ensure accurate enrolment numbers. Then, pivot tables and concatenation were used to calculate the total number of revisiting joiners (learners who enrolled in more than one run of the course).

The data files were then imported into NVivo 12 for ‘coding’ of themes. During the initial analysis of the data in NVivo, a number of themes were identified. Further analysis of the themes using the lens of learner archetypes and behavioural and affective/emotional subthemes was undertaken. The analysis revealed two main groups of revisiting learners based on the frequency and pattern of their revisiting. These two groups were then explored further, which resulted in a number of case studies that mapped each revisiting learner’s journey through each course run.

Ten revisiting learners were identified as case studies based on the number and frequency of their revisits, step activity, quiz responses and comments. Because FutureLearn allocates a unique identification number to each learner when they create their FutureLearn profile, it was possible to link data sets together and map the journey of each revisiting learner. Two main groups of revisiting learners were identified in the data: ‘Sequencers’ and ‘Syncopators’. ‘Sequencers’ revisited a course offering multiple times one after the other in a sequence without a break, while ‘Syncopators’ revisited multiple times non sequentially, on the off-beat or revisiting after a long break (sometimes more than 12 months between revisits). From ten revisiting learners initially identified, four learners were selected as case studies to represent two groups of revisiters.

Results and discussion

Enrolments and revisits

Combined, a total number of 33,990 revisiting learners joined a Monash mindfulness offering between Monday 14 September 2015 and Monday 29 May 2020. It’s worth noting that this number is determined by enrolments and does not represent active learners – typically, around 4% of learners leave a course run. There were 27,957 revisiting learners who joined MIND between Run 1 (14 September 2015) and Run 16 (16 March 2020). Table 2 summarises the number of revisits and the number of joiners, from highest to lowest for MIND.

Table 2. Revisits to MIND

MIND
 Number of revisits  Joiners
 14  12
 13  7
 12  12
 11  18
 10  42
 9  41
 8  84
 7  164
 6  272
 5  525
 4  1315
 3  4144
 2  21321
 Total  27957

There were 6,033 revisiting learners who joined MINDLIFE between Run 1 (13 November 2017) and Run 8 (29 May 2020). While MINDLIFE is complementary to MIND as a learning experience, the amount of revisiting learners may suggest that revisiters to MIND is not an isolated event. Table 3 summarises the number of revisits and the number of joiners, learners and active learners, from highest to lowest.

Table 3. Revisits to MINDLIFE

MINDLIFE
 Number of revisits  Joiners
 8  44
 7  48
 6  67
 5  170
 4  353
 3  1003
 2  4348
 Total  6033

Themes and sub-themes

Initial thematic analysis revealed core themes of revisiting, community, personal practice, content approval, observed outcomes and course team as reasons for learners to revisit the course. Table 4 lists these themes and provides a brief description.

Table 4. Summary of themes from comments made by revisiting learners

 Theme  Description
 Revisiting  Learners who enrolled or self-identified as having previously participated in a course offering, either sequentially or more than once – many learners listed the amount of revisits, run number or year of commencement in their comments.
 Community  Learners who highlighted the importance of community, felt a sense of community, or felt supported in a community of like minded and enthusiastic people.
 Content approval  Learners who identified the value of the course content (videos, written content, mindfulness meditations and exercises, and bespoke weekly feedback videos).
 Observed outcomes/change  Learners who identified the value of the course content (videos, written content, mindfulness meditations and exercises, and bespoke weekly feedback videos).
 Course team  Learners who celebrated and valued the contribution made by the course team – the lead educators and course mentors.

Results indicate that revisiting learners chose to return because the course enabled them to refresh and reinforce their skills and knowledge (because practising mindfulness has no natural limit), stay motivated to maintain and grow a regular / ongoing meditation practice, feel supported in a community of like minded and enthusiastic people, and access and engage with new/course specific content. Revisiters also revealed behavioural and emotional reasons for their ongoing participation, with many learners noticing an increased awareness and changes in behaviour, staying on track and maintaining their established mindfulness practice, starting unitasking/efficient attention switching instead of multitasking, changing ingrained behaviours with a positive impact, reinforcing and practising mindfulness and creating permanent change to their outlook on life. These learners also noticed how their ongoing participation made them feel less anxious or anxious for a shorter time, more motivated and less overwhelmed, and part of a global community made-up of old friends.
Revisiting reflects the findings of Bozkurt & Keefer (2018), where the learning opportunity must be flexible and permit the learner drop-in and out at their discretion, often at intervals throughout their life, much like ‘a personal learning continuum, rather than as unrelated, separate gatherings’. Typical comments made by revisiting learners in relation to the theme of revisiting include references to the number of course runs they’ve joined, their eagerness to enrol, engage with other revisiting learners and make a start on the course – many learners felt revisiting gave them a chance to pause and recharge their batteries, build on existing skills or (re)discover something they’ve previously missed.

Revisiting learners also revealed in the comments that feeling supported in a community of like minded and enthusiastic people was another reason for their return. These comments reflect findings of (Groom 2016), where communities that foster a culture of participatory learning contribute to the premise of lifelong learning. The community doesn’t come without a degree of effort from the learner, as noted by Pegrum (2009), where the course is an environment that is suited for a learner that is self-determined, attentive, can think critically, reason, and is ready to collaborate. Typical comments made by revisiting learners in relation to the theme of community include references to following the success of other learners, opportunities to learn from an ‘international’ community, a sense of strength, support and perspectives of others, and being motivated by other learners.

Digital learning intervention plan for a 6 credit point postgraduate Mindfulness ‘Train-the-Trainer’ program

Context and cohort

Mindfulness, in its simplest and most universal sense, is a mental discipline that involves training attention (Hassed, n.d). Mindfulness is also about intentionally paying attention to whatever you’re doing and what’s happening around you, which as a practice, can result in improvements to cognitive and academic performance, health and wellbeing and improved relationships. Deliberately paying attention is important, and as research by Sheline, Barch, Price, Rundle, Vaishnavi, Snyder, and Raichle (2009) and Broyd, Demanuele, Debener, Helps, James, and Sonuga-Barke (2009) suggests, when we’re not paying deliberate attention our brain switches to ‘Default Mode’ – a type of attention associated with poor cognitive functioning and impaired performance.

With growing evidence to support the efficacy of mindfulness interventions in improving cognitive and academic performance (Chan & Woollacott, 2007), health and wellbeing (Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010) and improved relationships (Gambrel & Keeling, 2010), it’s not surprising that mindfulness is being explored by many education sectors to be part of their health and wellbeing programs. Indeed, these initiatives show promise, and as suggested by Zenner, Herrnleben-Kurz and Walach (2014), mindfulness-based interventions for children and youths are able to increase cognitive capacity of attending and learning.

So, how can a university better equip their students for the rigours of study and ensure they’re less stressed and performing at the best of their academic abilities? Mindfulness programs limited only to face-to-face workshops may impact the continued adoption of mindfulness practices (particularly if workshops require participants to travel or be in residence for a number of days, a retreat for example) – something that the affordances of digital may be able to counteract by providing greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness of delivering programs at scale. Already, there are a number of organisations (Center for Mindfulness, Openground), resources (www.mindfuled.org, www.mindfuleducation.org, Reachout) and digital tools (smilingmind, headspace, The Mindfulness App, Calm) available that share ideas and training opportunities for mindfulness programs as well as the development of a personal practice, but there are few digital solutions that directly support the development and capacity of teachers.

Teachers are probably the best placed to impart mindfulness practices to their students, and according to Zenner, Herrnleben-Kurz and Walach (2014), ideal for promoting mindfulness in their pupils through teaching mindfully, and through teaching mindfulness directly in diverse settings. An alternative to mindfulness-specific programs, would be to make mindfulness an essential component of a teachers unit of study, where practising teachers embed mindfulness as part of their teaching. To do this, they’ll need training.

My digital learning intervention plan describes the specifications for a 6 credit point postgraduate Mindfulness ‘Train-the-Trainer’ online program. Aimed solemnly at practising teachers in higher education, this AQF level 8 criteria program trains teachers how to embed mindfulness practices into their online teaching. This program is not designed for pre-service teachers, although pre-service teachers may benefit from the personal mindfulness practices in the program. This program could also be amended to suit other education cohorts as well as corporate and other professional contexts.

It’s also worth noting that any digital platforms, services, tools or apps mentioned in this digital learning intervention plan are not prescriptive, nor is the plan dependent on any one of these. Any platforms, services, tools or apps mentioned are for reference only, and for the purposes of this plan, it’s assumed that they, and all program content (including learning activities and assessments), meet all organisational requirements for data protection and privacy and the Level AA success criteria of W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.


Intended learning outcomes

The following learning outcomes (LOs) describe what the participant* should know and be able to do at the end of the Mindfulness ‘Train-the-Trainer’ program. By the end of the program, the participant should be able to:

  1. relate the history and origins, science and evidence, and underlying principles of mindfulness
  2. describe and demonstrate formal and informal mindfulness practices
  3. formulate appropriate mindfulness interventions to facilitate learning
  4. apply mindfulness practices to unique contexts, including stress, performance, communication, relationships and movement
  5. incorporate mindfulness practices and principles with learning theories and principles to embed mindfulness-based learning experiences.

*Please note, I’ve used the term ‘participant’ instead of learner / student to avoid potential confusion between the context of a learner / student in this online program and the future-state where the participant is teaching learners / students’ in their online program.

Placed within the ‘Relational’ level of the SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982), the learning outcome LO1 is critical given the participant’s eventual teaching context, where they’ll need to show a connection, benefit and value of undertaking mindfulness practices to their students (which also benefits the participant’s own understanding of mindfulness) and other stakeholders. The participant’s capacity to relate what it means to be mindful, the cost of unmindfulness, default mode and being able to present a case for being mindful is vital, particularly when faced with the challenge of changing preconceptions towards mindfulness. This is particularly useful when participants are required to justify the benefits any additional efforts of mindfulness practices to students and organisational stakeholders.

Placed within the ‘Multistructural’ level, LO2 prepares the participant to lead a variety of meditations / exercises (formal practice) and elaborate on the spheres of mindful practice as well as the attitudes of mindfulness and its qualities (informal practice). The participant’s capacity to model what it means to be mindful through the demonstration of formal practices is essential, as is the skill to lead students through a meditation that helps cultivate their own ongoing practice. Attitudes and qualities (curiosity, openness, non-reactivity, self-awareness), spheres of practice (mundane moments, leisure time, communicating, movement, working) also known as informal mindful practices, are also aspects of mindful the participant will need to master and demonstrate to their students – informal practices are equally important as they’re the majority of moments that make-up the day.

Placed within the ‘Extended Abstract’ level, LO3 readys the participant to create their own mindfulness interventions relevant to their students and teaching context. Context shape content, and the program participant’s understanding of how mindfulness interventions (which practices, and in what sequence etc) can be assembled in response to their specific teaching context is critical for student learning, not only the mindfulness practices but also the unit of study.

Placed within the ‘Relational’ level, LO4 charges the participant with skills for teaching students how to respond to the stress response, understand the cognitive aspects of stress and mindful stress reduction, which is critical in an educational setting. Of equal importance is performance, communication, relationships and movement. The program participant will be teaching students how to apply mindfulness practices to situations/approaches that contribute to impaired performance, including distraction, multi-tasking, apathy, mindsets and cognitive biases. Communication and relationships can also contribute to impaired performance and stress – with this learning outcome the participant will be able to teach students how to apply mindfulness practices to these contexts.

Placed within the ‘Multistructural’ level, LO5 equips the participant to better understand how students learn and how mindfulness-based learning experiences can be embedded in their teaching practice. As this program is designed for practising teachers, it’s likely the participant will have their own unique approach and preferences for learning theory and principles preferences that informs their existing teaching practice. While this is understandable, this learning outcome is predicated on learning in a digital age and how the affordances of technology can increase the availability of mindfulness-based experiences that can better equip students for the rigours of study and ensure they’re less stressed and performing at the best of their academic abilities.


Assessment

The Mindfulness ‘Train-the-Trainer’ program contains three summative assessment tasks.

Assessment task 1: Leading a meditation session

For this assessment task (AT), the participant is required to submit a recording of them leading a meditation session (maximum 10 minutes). The purpose of this assessment is for the participant to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in formal mindful practices and the application of mindfulness practices to unique contexts. This assessment reflects the participant’s eventual teaching context, where they’ll need to lead a meditation session within their digital offering and / or provide instruction and support around their student’s use of digital tools.

The meditation session must be based on the participant’s context and must include any additional information that may be needed by the audience prior to commencement of the session. As part of the submission, a transcript of the meditation used in the session must be provided. The submission format is flexible, meaning a video or audio recording of the participant leading the session is acceptable. If audio is submitted, supplementary photographs of the participant demonstrating the desired position / posture are required to provide an equivalent instructional experience. The video hosting service used to submit the recording is also flexible, where the participants can choose from a service that permits sharing of ‘Unlisted’ videos, for example Vimeo or YouTube.

To guide the participant’s submission, the following materials will be provided: expository information (assessment task brief / scope, how-to information, technical requirements, deadlines, academic integrity) including a worked example, assessment rubric, and references to related learning materials.

Format: Multimedia (Video, Audio, Photographs / Images, Written)

Word count: Determined by duration of meditation (if 10 minutes, roughly 1,000 to 2,00 words)

Weight (%total mark): 20%

This assessment task aligns with a number of key elements (1, 2, 3, 7 and 9) from a model of authentic learning (Herrington, Thomas & Oliver, 2010) and maps to LO2 and LO4. Refer to Appendix A for the assessment task rubric.

Assessment task 2 – Implementation plan for a mindfulness intervention

For this assessment task, the participant is required to submit an implementation plan for a mindfulness intervention in their teaching context. The purpose of this assessment is for the participant to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in formulating mindfulness interventions to facilitate learning in their specific context. This assessment reflects the participant’s eventual teaching context, where they’ll need to plan, explain and advocate for the mindfulness intervention to be included as part of their teaching. The resulting plan could also potentially be used to inform similar interventions carried out by peers, or even elsewhere within the organisation.

The participant’s plan will need to describe the teaching context, goals and objectives, the resource implications (personnel, budget, tools, equipment and technology, facilities), schedule, management and reporting, any risks (of implementing or not implementing the mindfulness intervention), and associated contingencies.

Like Assessment task 1, this assessment task will provide expository information including a worked example, assessment rubric, references to related learning materials within the program will also be included to guide the participant’s assessment submission.

Format: Written

Word count: 1500

Weight (%total mark): 30%

This assessment task aligns with a number of key elements (1, 2, 3, 7 and 9) from a model of authentic learning (Herrington, Thomas & Oliver, 2010) and maps to LO2, LO3 and LO4. Refer to Appendix B for the assessment task rubric.

Assessment task 3 – Mindfulness intervention business case

For this assessment task, the participant is required to submit a business case for a mindfulness intervention in their teaching context. Building on AT2, the purpose of the assessment is for the participant to demonstrate their reasoning for initiating a mindfulness intervention in their specific learning context and to provide stakeholders with information they need to make a decision. This assessment reflects the participant’s eventual teaching context, where they’ll need to communicate the strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management ‘cases’ of the mindfulness intervention to stakeholders, who are most likely responsible for approving and resourcing the intervention.

The business case must contain an executive summary, finance, project definition, project organisation section (Workfront, 2019) and must provide a clear justification for the intervention on the basis of its expected benefit to students and the organisation.

Like previous assessment tasks, this assessment will provide expository information to guide the assessment submission.

Format: Written

Word count: 2500

Weight (%total mark): 50%

This assessment task aligns with a number of key elements (1, 2, 3, 7 and 9) from a model of authentic learning (Herrington, Thomas & Oliver, 2010) and maps to LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5. Refer to Appendix C for assessment task rubric.


Learning activities

For this program, it’s assumed that all learning activities are inherently social, where participants, as described by Laurillard (2012), learn through peer discussion. Participants can share their thoughts on prescribed discussions, provide their own comments and respond to others, reflect on what they’ve learned, and check their understanding with a quiz. It’s also assumed that participants can engage with content and be provided with ‘mentoring’ from highly responsive members of the course team on the platform, and elicit extrinsic feedback from the lead educators on their activity (which is then provided via email and bespoke summary videos).

Learning activity – What do you know about mindfulness?

For this learning activity, participants need to share what they know about mindfulness with other participants, watch a video featuring mindfulness experts introducing mindfulness and then reflect on any ideas or concepts presented in the video that are new, meaningful or challenge their existing assumptions of mindfulness and mindfulness practices. Participants then share their personal reflection, list ideas or concepts important to them and then briefly explain how these ideas or concepts could be integrated or change their existing teaching practice. Participants then select one idea or concept and then elaborate on how they’re going to practise it / apply it outside of the online program and to their teaching context.

This learning activity adopts the 4-A Model, where participants anchor the content within their experience, add new information, apply the content in a new way or to a new situation and then decide how they will use this learning in the future (Goetzman, 2012). The activity aligns with all nine elements from a model of authentic learning (Herrington, Thomas & Oliver, 2010) and also maps to LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5 and assessment task (AT) 2 and AT3.

For a mockup of the learning activity, please refer to Appendix D.

Learning activity – Out of the chair and into your life!

For this learning activity, participants need to share what they know about formal and informal mindfulness practice and watch a video featuring experts describing each practice, its application, differences, strategies and exercises and digital tools that can help increase an awareness of mindful development. Participants then reflect on any ideas, concepts or digital tools presented in the video that are new, already aware of or are meaningful and contribute to their development. Then, participants share their reflection, explaining how they could apply formal and informal mindfulness practices to teaching context. Participants then share the digital tools they’ve chosen to help support their mindful development and help track their progress.

This learning activity adopts the 4-A Model (Goetzman, 2012) and aligns with all nine elements from a model of authentic learning (Herrington, Thomas & Oliver, 2010). It also maps to LO2, LO3, LO4 and AT1 and AT2.

For a mockup of the learning activity, please refer to please refer to Appendix E, Appendix F and Appendix G.

Learning activity – Flip the script

For this learning activity, participants need to identify an aspect from their teaching context that would benefit from a mindfulness intervention, prepare a script for meditation that benefits the identified aspect and then share it with other participants for review and feedback. After receiving feedback on their work, the participant needs to reflect on any amendments they would improve their script. As part of the learning activity, the participant will also need to provide feedback on a script submitted by at least one other participant.

This learning activity aligns with all nine elements from a model of authentic learning (Herrington, Thomas & Oliver, 2010) and maps to LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 and AT1, AT2 and AT3.

For a mockup of the learning activity, please refer to Appendix H.


Relevance

My approach outlined in the digital learning intervention supports the learning activities and assessments, and meets the learning outcomes and needs of the participants by the very nature of being digital. Being digital is a direct response to the limited availability or exclusivity of mindfulness training (that’s traditionally been face-to-face / workshop based). Being digital means the program is immediately more accessible to prospective participants, it can operate at scale and seamlessly incorporate existing and emerging digital services and tools, potentially from other partners / providers. Being digital also means that participants can collaboratively construct knowledge (for example, through the creation of scripts, meditations etc), which is an efficiency for the program participant, where in their eventual teaching context they’ll need to formulate (or at least clearly articulate to developers and designers) their own mindfulness learning experiences.


References

This reference list both acknowledges and attributes the original authors and sources of information included in this digital intervention learning plan.

Assessment Design Decisions (n.d.). Assessment Design Framework. Retrieved from http://www.assessmentdecisions.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Appendix-A-the-Assessment-Design-Decisions-Framework.pdf

Biggs, J.B., & Collis, K., F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning : the SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome). Academic Press, New York

Broyd, S.J., Demanuele, C., Debener, S., Helps, S.K., James, C.J., & Sonuga-Barke, E.J. (2009). Default-mode brain dysfunction in mental disorders: a systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 33(3), 279-296.

Chan, D., & Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved?. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13(6), 651-658.

Gambrel, L.E., & Keeling, M.L. (2010). Relational aspects of mindfulness: Implications for the practice of marriage and family therapy. Contemporary Family Therapy, 32(4), 412-426.

Goetzman, D., M. (2012) Dialogue Education Step by Step: A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events. Global Learning Partners, Inc.

Hassed, C. (n.d.). The Health Benefits of Meditation and Being Mindful. Retrieved from https://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/694192/The-health-benefits-of-meditation-and-being-mindful.pdf

Herrington, J., Thomas, C., Oliver, R. (2010). A Guide to Authentic e-Learning. New York and London: Routledge.

Hofmann, S., G., Sawyer, A., T., Witt, A., A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 78(2), 169.

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. Routledge: London.

Ramsburg, J., Youmans, R. (2013). Meditation in the Higher-Education Classroom: Meditation Training Improves Student Knowledge Retention during Lectures. Mindfulness. 5. 10.1007/s12671-013-0199-5.

Sheline, Y. I., Barch, D. M., Price, J. L., Rundle, M. M., Vaishnavi, S. N., Snyder, A. Z., … & Raichle, M. E. (2009). The default mode network and self-referential processes in depression. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(6), 1942-1947.

World Wide Web Consortium. (2018) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/

Workfront. (2019). How to Write a Business Case ― 4 Steps to a Perfect Business Case Template. Retrieved from https://www.workfront.com/blog/how-to-write-a-business-case-4-steps-to-a-perfect-business-case-template#thebusinesscasetemplate

Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., Walach, H., (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00603/full


Appendix A

Rubric for ‘Assessment task 1: Leading a meditation session’.

Criteria Excellent (HD) Very good (D) Good (C) Satisfactory (P) Unsatisfactory (F)

Introducing the practice

Explanation of the formal mindfulness practice (25%)

Explanation of formal mindfulness practice is thorough and includes highly detailed information on how the practice applies to the unique context. Explanation of the formal mindfulness practice is very clear and provides a detailed description of how the practice applies to the unique context. Explanation of the formal mindfulness practice is clear and provides a reasonable description of how the practice applies to the unique context. Explanation of the formal mindfulness practice is rudimentary and provides a brief description of how the practice applies to the unique context. Explanation of formal mindfulness practice is unclear and / or not shown. There is no information given to how the practice applies to the unique context.

Preparation and position

Demonstration of seating / position and relevant preparatory information (25%)

Seating / position is clearly demonstrated and of exceptional standard. Highly detailed preparatory information has been included. Seating / position is clearly shown. Detailed preparatory information has been included. Seating / position is shown. Preparatory information of reasonable quality has been included. Seating / position is shown. Some preparatory information has been included, but lacks detail. Seating / position is unclear and/or not shown. Preparatory information has not been included.

Guiding the practice

Effective instruction and guidance (25%)

Instruction and guidance throughout practice is detailed and sequential. Highly detailed debrief/enquiry process has been included. Instruction and guidance throughout practice is very clear and sequential. Detailed debrief/enquiry process has been included. Instruction and guidance throughout practice is clear and sequential. debrief/enquiry process has been included. Instruction and guidance throughout practice is provided. A debrief/enquiry process has been included, but lacks detail. Instruction and guidance throughout practice is unclear, nonsequential and/or not provided.

Debrief/enquiry process has not been included.

Challenges and difficulties

Description of challenges and and difficulties associated with the mindfulness practice (25%)

Description is extremely thorough and concludes with highly detailed information on management / solutions to challenges. Description of challenges are clearly described and detailed solutions or approaches to managing the challenges have been provided. Description of challenges is clear and possible solutions or approaches to managing the challenges have been provided. Description of challenges is provided. Solutions or approaches to managing challenges have been provided, but lacks depth and detail. Description is unclear and/or not provided. Solutions or approaches to managing challenges in the future are not provided.

Appendix B

Rubric for ‘Assessment task 2 – Implementation plan for a mindfulness intervention’.

Criteria Excellent (HD) Very good (D) Good (C) Satisfactory (P) Unsatisfactory (F)

Background

Learning context, identified need (15%)

Learning context is highly detailed and defined, and need for mindfulness intervention in cohort is clearly articulated. Learning context is detailed and need for intervention has been articulated. Cohort not identified Learning context is detailed. Need for mindfulness intervention has been identified, but lacking detail. Learning context is provided. Need for mindfulness intervention has been identified. Learning context is unclear and / or not shown. Need for intervention not shown.

Goals and objectives

Goals and objectives of intervention and intended outcomes (15%)

Goals and objectives are clearly defined. Intended outcomes are clearly articulated and measurable. Goals and objectives are defined. Intended outcomes have been included, but are not measurable. Goals and objectives are defined. Intended outcomes included, but measurement strategies unclear. Goals, objectives and intended outcomes have been listed. Goals and objectives unclear. Intended outcomes not shown.

Resource implications

Budget, tools, equipment, technology and personnel (15%)

Highly detailed and comprehensive list of resources, with detailed explanation of digital tools / services. Detailed list of required resources, and mentions digital tools / services. Detailed list of required resources. Digital tools / services not mentioned. Incomplete list resources shown, but lacks detail. Required resources not shown.

Schedule

Timeline, schedule of events, duration (15%)

Highly detailed schedule, describes in detail ‘peak periods’ and duration for cohort / events. Detailed schedule and timeline. ‘Peak periods’ for cohort listed. Detailed schedule of events and timeline. Schedule shown, but the timeline is unclear. Schedule not shown.

Management and reporting

How the project will be managed, reported and reviewed (15%)

Highly detailed explanation of how the project will be managed, reported and reviewed. Detailed explanation of how the project will be managed, reported and reviewed. Some explanation of how the project will be managed, reported and reviewed. Unclear explanation of how the project will be managed, reported and reviewed. Management and reporting not provided.

Evaluation

Strategies for measuring success (15%)

Highly detailed metrics, milestones and performance measures linked to goals, objectives and reporting. Detailed metrics, milestones and performance measures. Metrics, milestones and performance measures have been listed. Metrics and milestones have been listed but performance measures are unclear. Strategies not provided.

Risks and contingencies

Description of risks to intervention and alternative actions (5%)

Highly detailed description of associated risks and comprehensive contingency plan. Detailed description of associated risks. Contingency planning has limited scope. Detailed description of associated risks. Contingency planning is unclear. Associated risks and a contingency plan has been listed. Associated risks and contingency plans not provided.

Expression and grammar

Scholarly, succinct with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation (5%)

Writing style is exceptional, scholarly and succinct that’s free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Writing style is scholarly, free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Writing style is scholarly, but wordy. Free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Writing is scholarly and wordy. Contains some grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors. Writing is unscholarly. Many grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors.

Appendix C

Rubric for ‘Assessment task 3 – Mindfulness intervention business case’.

Criteria Excellent (HD) Very good (D) Good (C) Satisfactory (P) Unsatisfactory (F)

Executive summary

Summarises business case (5%)

Summary of business case is thorough and succinctly conveys critical information about the mindfulness intervention. Summary of business case is very clear provides information about the intervention. Summary of business case is clear and provides information about the intervention. Summary of business case is rudimentary and lacks detail. Summary of business case is unclear or not provided.

Finance

Conveys financial implications (5%)

Describes in detail all financial implications for intervention, comparisons of intervention costs against benefits and all associated costs. Lists all financial implications for intervention, comparisons of intervention costs against benefits and all associated costs. Lists all financial implications for intervention, comparisons of intervention costs against benefits and some associated costs. Lists some financial implications for intervention, comparisons of intervention costs against benefits and some associated costs. All financial implications unclear or not provided.

Project definition

Explains the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ (20%)

Highly detailed description of background, objectives, benefits and limitations, scope, business interests and associated risks. Very clear description of background, objectives, benefits and limitations, scope, business interests and associated risks. Clear description of background, objectives, benefits and limitations, scope, business interests and associated risks. Limited description of background, objectives, benefits and limitations, scope, business interests and associated risks. The ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ is unclear or not provided.

Project organisation

Describes how intervention will be set up (10%)

Highly detailed and accurate description of how the intervention is linked to organisational governance framework. Clearly defined reporting measures. Detailed and accurate description of linkage to organisational governance framework. Clearly defined reporting measures. Accurate description of linkage to organisational governance framework. Defined reporting measures. Limited description of linkage to organisational governance framework. Some reporting measures provided. Linkages to established organisational governance framework or reporting measures not provided.

Strategic case

A case for change that fits strategic objectives of the organisation (10%)

Highly compelling case that meets all strategic objectives of the organisation. Compelling case that meets most strategic objectives of the organisation. Case meets some strategic objectives of the organisation. Case meets few strategic objectives of the organisation. No strategic objectives provided.

Economic case

Economic value (10%)

Case demonstrates incredibly high economic value to the organisation. Case demonstrates some economic value to the organisation. Case demonstrates low economic value to the organisation. Economic value to organisation unclear. Economic value not shown.

Commercial case

Commercial value and viability (10%)

Case demonstrates high commercial value and viability. Case demonstrates some commercial value and viability. Case demonstrates little or low commercial value and viability. Commercial value and viability unclear. Commercial value and viability of intervention not shown.

Financial case

Financial investment is affordable (10%)

Case clearly demonstrates affordability of intervention, and cost of not carrying out intervention. Case demonstrates affordability of intervention, and cost of not carrying out intervention. Case provides financial information, with limited affordability and cost of not carrying out intervention. Case provides some financial information, but affordability of intervention and cost of not carrying out intervention is unclear. Financial case is not provided.

Management case

Input from stakeholders is achievable (10%)

Presents highly detailed and accurate description of stakeholders and their level of input. Clear description of stakeholders and their level of input. Some stakeholders and their level of input provided. Some stakeholder information and level of input provided, but unclear. No stakeholder information was provided.

Presentation, expression and grammar

Structure and formatting of business case. Scholarly, succinct with correct spelling, grammar and punctuation (10%)

Structure and format is accurate. Writing style is exceptional, scholarly and succinct that’s free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Structure and format is accurate. Writing style is scholarly, free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Structure and format partially adopted. Writing style is scholarly, but wordy. Free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Structure and format partially adopted with errors. Writing scholarly and wordy. Contains some grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors. Structure and format not present. Writing unscholarly. Many grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors.

Appendix D

Mockup of the ‘What do you know about mindfulness?’ learning activity as a digital experience.

Watch Associate Professor Henry Smyth-Jones and Dr Ingrid Magnusson provide an overview of mindfulness, its history and origins, its practices and the emerging science and evidence on this area.

As you’re watching, consider the evidence and examples of mindfulness and its application that are being presented.

Talk about it

Within the Comments, share with other learners your thoughts on one or more of the following talking points:

  • Although you might, we don’t assume you have had any prior experience with mindfulness or its applications. Of the ideas presented in the video, which ones are new to you or challenge your existing ideas of mindfulness, its practices and application?
  • Which ideas, science evidence or examples of the application of mindfulness do you find most meaningful to you and your professional teaching practice, and what are some ways you could apply or integrate them into your teaching?

Also consider reading and commenting on contributions made by other learners or following learners with similar interests as you. You can also ‘Like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Act on it

Choose an idea or concept that you found most meaningful, and then starting this week, act on it by finding out more about how others are applying the idea or concept to their professional practice (not necessarily in the field of education). For example, you may like to investigate how mindfulness is being introduced into sporting codes, business/corporate environments or in creative applications.

Throughout the week carry out your investigation, and then at the end of the week, return to this step then share what you’ve found out in the Comments.

If you’d like to find out more about the research and current thinking in this area, consider exploring the links in the See also section of this step. There, you’ll also find links to more scholarly articles on mindfulness and its effects on wellbeing from peer reviewed journals. We hope you find them useful.


Appendix E

Mockup of the ‘Out of the chair and into your life!’ learning activity as a digital experience.

Watch Professor Joni Alferson and Associate Professor Mitch Murray discuss the differences between informal and formal mindfulness practices, their application and tools that are available, and more.

As you’re watching, consider which practices you could apply to your teaching context and the challenges associated with doing so.

Talk about it

Within the Comments, share with other learners your thoughts on one or more of the following talking points:

  • Of the informal and formal mindfulness practices presented in the video, which ones do you think are most relevant to your professional practice?
  • Which informal and formal mindfulness practices would you like to try and how might you go about establishing your own mindfulness practice?

Also consider reading and commenting on contributions made by other learners or following learners with similar interests as you. You can also ‘Like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Act on it

Choose a teaching context or situation where you’d like to me more mindful, and then starting this week, act on it by practising mindfulness. For example, you may want to be more mindful at work or in your studies, or even make a very conscious effort to avoid unhelpful multi-tasking, or not to be drawn into the distractions around you so you can focus on a task of greatest importance to you.

Play the meditations available in this course or use apps such as Smiling Mind or Headspace. Be sure to track your progress with a mindfulness practice record, which is available in a print friendly or digital format.

Remember, your practice record is a valuable means of looking back over these changes, reflecting where you have come from and where you want to go to.


Appendix F

Mockup of a print friendly mindfulness practice record template (Can be filled out electronically) for the ‘What do you know about mindfulness?’ learning activity.

Day Formal mindfulness practice Informal mindfulness practice Mindfulness practised in other ways
Sample entry Conducted 10 minute body scan. Noticed tension in my body and was able to let it go. Felt more relaxed by the end. Listened to birdsong on walk to work. Such a nice way to start the day, and noticed that I was calmer and more present at work. Turned off notifications on my phone/Flight mode to stop myself from being distracted from priority tasks.
Monday      
Tuesday      
Wednesday      
Thursday      
Friday      
Saturday      
Sunday      

Appendix G

Screen capture of daily mindfulness practice record included for reference only. Functional mindfulness practice record can be accessed from https://forms.gle/Jd5ayyBccTk2LTMX8


Appendix H

Mockup of the ‘Flip the script’ learning activity as a digital experience.

It’s time to bring together what you know about formal mindfulness practice and its application by writing your own script for a 5 minute meditation that would benefit an aspect of your teaching context (stress, performance, communication and relationships etc).

After you submit your script, you will then be asked to read and comment on a submission by another program participant.

What you need to do

Choose an aspect from your teaching context (stress, performance, communication and relationships etc) that would benefit from a mindfulness intervention. Your task is to write a meditation script for the teaching context, and explain its usage. Your script will have three parts.

  1. Write an introduction by briefly describing the meditation and how it complements the context (No more than 100 words).
  2. Write the meditation script (No more than 400 words). Remember, gently lead the listener through the meditation being sure to clearly describe what they’re to do or the sensations they may feel.
  3. Write a debrief, briefly describing what the listener is to do next and how they can continue to practise the meditation (No more than 100 words).

These three sections match the guidelines that will be used by other learners to review and provide feedback.

Giving effective feedback

Once you have submitted your script, you will be invited to give feedback on the work submitted by another learner. In other words, a peer review.

Constructive feedback, and the process of reflecting on the feedback you receive on your own script, are both very powerful learning opportunities, and we hope that you give and receive feedback in the spirit of creating a supportive learning environment. Here are some tips on how to give the other learner effective feedback on their work:

  • Make sure that the tone of your feedback is always constructive. There is no place in this peer review process for feedback that is negative, disrespectful or derogatory.
  • Make sure that your feedback addresses the three criteria set for the task: introduction, the meditation itself, and the debrief. If you are making suggestions, make sure they are clear, and align with one of these criteria.
  • Emphasise the positives of what your peer submitted. Look for things they did well.
  • Remember the context of this task. The task is to write a script for a 5 minute meditation that would benefit an aspect of your teaching context. Therefore, please make sure your comments and suggestions are appropriate for this task.

Reviewing the work of another learner

First read through the piece without making any notes or comments. Then read through a second time, taking the time to consider each point that is made.

Using the guidelines provided, write brief comments that provide constructive feedback to the author. Point out anything that you found particularly interesting, what you found challenging and what you learnt.

Before you submit your review, please read through again so that you can add anything you’ve missed and ensure that your comments are easy to understand. The more reviews you can do, the more you help others and learn from their experiences.


Literature review: They always come: An assessment of pedagogical dimensions, or combinations of, that could possibly contribute to repeated participation by learners in an online course over multiple instances

Introduction

Since their emergence in the mid-2000s, massive open online courses (MOOC) have been predicated on making learning available to everyone, and at scale. While the use of instructional video by educators isn’t new to face-to-face or online learning experiences, it does serve as a critical and primary means of content delivery in a MOOC.

Much effort has been spent analysing data generated by MOOC participants (eg., Guo, Kim & Rubin, 2014; Savage, 2009; Wang, 2017) to determine if video production methods, format, style, type or even duration has the capacity to solely influence student learning and engagement. Research across a variety of MOOCS (eg., Engle, Mankoff & Carbrey 2015; Hew & Cheung, 2008; Taib, Chuah & Aziz, 2017) has also been conducted into better understanding the impact of pedagogical dimensions such as cooperative learning, feedback, activities and assessments on learner participation, therefore suggesting that there may be more factors to cultivating an engaging learning experience than video instruction alone.

These factors may seem elementary for a single instance or one-off run of a MOOC, but what of repeat learners – those learners who repeatedly join and then continue to actively participate in the same MOOC over multiple instances? An example of this cohort would be the learners who continue to participate in Monash University’s ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ and ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’ courses on FutureLearn.

This review aims to assess which pedagogical dimensions, or combinations of, that could possibly contribute to repeated participation by learners in an online course over multiple instances to assist the rise of continued ongoing course participation and guide course design for alternate and expanded online offerings.

Review of literature

‘Have we got a video? Yes, we’ve got a video!’ (Young Ones – Nasty 1986)

Although the use of video isn’t exclusive to MOOCs, video is the primary means of content delivery. Each MOOC is unique, where educators, course content designers and producers work together to create video content that makes use of a diverse combination of video types (text, static image, image and presenter face/talking head and fully animated) and video design elements (static slides, digital ink/scribbler/analysis, discussion/discursive), that complements the pedagogical approach. The impact of video production on learning is of great interest to educators and MOOC producers. Guo, Kim and Rubin (2014) found that videos of short duration are engaging to learners. An equal level of engagement was identified for videos types that featured the ‘talking head’ of a presenter or used digital ink/scribbler/analysis to provide a more detailed explanation. Neilson (2014) and Savage (2009) support the approach of videos of short duration. To maintain learner engagement, Neilson (2014) recommended that videos should combine different video types and design elements, such as a presenter face/talking head with a digital ink/scribbler/analysis. Multiple studies have investigated the role of cinematography and cinema production design/methodology on learner engagement. In his research, Wang (2017) identified camera shot style and background design ‘down to the granularity of how the image is captured, recorded and delivered’ (Wang 2017) to be as equally as important as video types and video design elements on learner attention and engagement. In addition, Wang, Chen and Wu (2015) observed the impact of different video types and video design elements on learning. They concluded that the production cost and intensity associated with creating ‘lecture capture and picture-in-picture videos may be worthwhile for online learning from the perspectives of improved learning performance and reduced cognitive load’ (Wang, Chen and Wu 2015). The use of video isn’t reduced only to pre-prepared and pre-recorded content that contributes to the course material. Video can also be create in responsive to learner activity and play a critical role in enabling educators and course instructors to provide feedback to learners throughout the delivery of the course. Henderson and Phillips (2015) reported that the affordances of video enable instructors to convey detailed and elaborate feedback as well as encouragement and praise to learners more so than written commentary. Henderson and Phillips (2015) also reported positive learner response to video-based feedback, where learners felt they had a closer connection with the instructors or educators. Echoing the reports from Henderson and Phillips are learner reviews posted online ‘The final feedback video each week is the jewel in their crown. It sums up the week’s thoughts and mentions some of the issues and talking points brought up in the online comments’, ‘Weekly feedback on YouTube responds to learners questions and comments as they have arisen that week’ and ‘The weekly feedback sessions allowed the participants to feel engaged and gave a more personal feel to an online course’ (Class Central 2018). The use of video-based feedback in this capacity not only addresses any potential knowledge deficit experienced by learners, makes the ‘makes the massive feel intimate’ (Pappano 2018), but also personalised the course in a meaningful and practical way, while actively contributing to the change in learner perceptions of the course as the type where an ‘instructor is not as available because there are tens of thousands of others in the class’ (Pappano 2012).

‘Everybody online. Looking good.’ (Aliens 1986)

When thinking about why learners persist with a course or even choose to repeat the same course again, it’s critical to consider the role of instructors, course mentors or any of the multitudes of names for the course team members who are responsible for facilitating discussions and interacting with learners on the platform. According to Hew (2014), instructor accessibility and passion are some of the features that were identified as key for promoting learner engagement, where engagement is defined as an observable action in the course. While engagement is different from completion and retention (which in MOOCS, are an often misconstrued metric devised by educators and platform providers for defining their view of learner success, satisfaction, needs or goals) an analysis by Adamopoulos (2013) revealed that the role of the instructor did have the largest possible effect on the likelihood of completion. Learner reviews posted online ‘In addition to this there are two outstanding mentors who support the learning and help clarify the more scientific aspects of the course and make lots of useful links and resourses [sic] available to enable the independant [sic] exploration of a complex subject’ (Class Central 2018), ‘The moderators are extremely active in their support for learners’ (Class Central 2018) and ‘The mentors had valuable insights and comments and added a lot’ (Class Central 2018) echo the findings of Adamopoulos (2013) and Pilli & Admiraal (2017) in relation to learner interaction with an instructor, where learner retention and satisfaction is higher when instructors are highly responsive. However, some earlier literature on MOOCS (Kop, 2011; Mackness, 2013; Milligan & Littlejohn, 2014) seemingly bemoan the absence of interaction between instructors and learners, asserting that learners may be prevented from having a quality learning experience due to their limited capacity to undertake self-directed learning. In the past, a diminished learning experience may have been inevitable, considering the vintage of the online environment in which their learner cohort was constrained (the anti-social EdX platform and the hardcore Connectivist Edupunk-ness of the open web). Since the launch of FutureLearn, a platform that’s been ‘inspired by Laurillard’s Conversational Framework’ (Sánchez-Vera, Maria del Mar, Leon Urrutia, Manuel and Davis, Hugh C 2015), a diminished learning experience seems less likely as the platform is predicated on a social learning experience, instructor-learner, learner-learner and learner-content.

‘This course could be your life’ (Groom 2016)

According to Horrigan (2016), people undertake learning for personal and professional reasons. Personal learners often choose learning opportunities that are likely increase their knowledge and skills that benefit themselves and others. Professional learners often choose learning opportunities that are likely to maintain or improve their knowledge and skills. Irrespective of the learner’s inclination for undertaking learning, the opportunity must be flexible and permit the learner drop-in and out at their discretion, often at intervals throughout their life, much like ‘a personal learning continuum, rather than as unrelated, separate gatherings’ (Aras Bozkurt & Jeffrey Keefer 2018). Communities that foster a culture of participatory learning contribute to the premise of lifelong learning, something to be part of, an idea ‘that the teaching and learning experience, the idea of imagining where you stand within in that environment is something that’s akin to the DIY punk experience‘ (Groom 2016). While the course creates an environment for this type of experience, its an environment that is suited for a learner that is self-determined, attentive, can think critically, reason, and is ready to collaborate (Pegrum, 2009). The presence of instructors is once again critical, where they support learners, the development of a community of learning, all the while gently guiding learners through the course. This raises the question as to why learners continue to participate and persist with a course and continue to engage in the community of learning. As MOOCS are voluntary, is it possible that learners simply enjoy being part of a community or their goals to deepen their knowledge and skills are being met, or is it the convenience, ease of use and flexibility afforded by the platform, or possibly even something else entirely that’s related to their individual needs that’s being served? Learners (Class Central, 2018) who participated in either or both of the mindfulness-related offerings by Monash reported ‘The two courses that I have been blessed with the opportunity to do on a number of ocassions [sic] have really enhanced the quality of not just my life but those who share their lives with me in any way. I am simply a better person for the learnings that I have had through undertaking the courses’, ‘I have found the leaders, Craig and Richard, really engaging and great role models for their subject, being calm, measured and reassuring, but also inspirational and encouraging. The strength of the course is their rapport in the short videos and audios which acknowledge human frailty and make the continuing practice of mindfulness seem vital and attainable in daily life.’ and ‘I plan to take the course again when it is offered in November, so I can delve more deeply into this more authentic way of viewing the world and living my life’, which goes some way to providing some insight into their ongoing participation. Furthermore, the learner sentiment expressed towards the mindfulness related offerings is somewhat akin to the model proposed by Peltier, Drago, and Schibrowsky (2003), that identified student-to-student interactions, student-instructor interactions and instructor support and mentoring, as well as course content, course structure and information delivery technology to key components to learner perceived quality of the online learning experience.

Conclusion

This review aimed to assess which pedagogical dimensions, or combinations of, that could possibly contribute to repeated participation by learners in an online course over multiple instances to assist the rise of continued ongoing course participation and guide course design for alternate and expanded online offerings. While findings are inconclusive in regards to the particular group of learners who continue to participate in Monash’s ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ and ‘Maintaining a Mindful Life’ courses, video production that carefully considers video type and video design is critical for learning materials that contribute to learner engagement. The role of instructors, course mentors or course team members responsible for interacting with learners was also found to be critical to learner engagement, completion and a quality learning experience. The affordances of a digital online space that’s flexible enough to permit a learner to drop-in and out at their choosing, at intervals throughout their life is a key factor to creating a community that fosters a culture of participatory learning, and one that may encourage learners to continue to be a part of. While anecdotes posted online do celebrate rich and impactful experiences that resonate with the repeat learners, literature that articulates or attempts to articulate an explanatory model for that particularly cohort is scarce. It is proposed that future studies could further examine in detail the repeat learner cohort, which could allow for more specific identification and understanding of the pedagogical dimensions, or combinations of that inform their ongoing commitment to a course, which could then be further analysed and potentially applied to courses with different subject matter contexts.

References

Adamopoulos, P. (2013). What makes a great MOOC? An interdisciplinary analysis of student retention in online courses. In Thirty fourth international conference on information systems, Milan, 2013.
Aliens 1986, film, Brandywine Productions, USA
Aras Bozkurt & Jeffrey Keefer (2018) Participatory learning culture and community formation in connectivist MOOCs, Interactive Learning Environments, 26:6, 776-788.
W. Wang, C. Chen and C. Wu, “Effects of Different Video Lecture Types on Sustained Attention, Emotion, Cognitive Load, and Learning Performance,” 2015 IIAI 4th International Congress on Advanced Applied Informatics, Okayama, 2015, pp. 385-390.
Class Central 2018, Maintaining a Mindful Life, retrieved 20 July 2018, <https://www.class-central.com/course/futurelearn-maintaining-a-mindful-life-9078#reviews>
Class Central 2018, Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance, retrieved 20 July 2018, <https://www.class-central.com/course/futurelearn-mindfulness-for-wellbeing-and-peak-performance-3714#reviews>
Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: An empirical study of MOOC videos. In Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning@ scale (pp. 41-50).
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