Saarland University Study Visit

Between March 26th and April 10th, Saarland University Professor Armin Weinberger and Allison Kolling conducted study visits to the partner universities in Malaysia and Indonesia. The goals of these visits included:

  • Putting the workshop shop trainings into practice
  • Making decisions regarding the design of the respectives MOOCs
  • Documenting the designs both in text and visual form
  • Getting to know the context of the end-users
  • Making contact with and solidify partnerships with stakeholders

Over the course of two weeks Professor Weinberger and Ms. Kolling visited partners from the Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Universitias Brawijaya, and Universitas Sam Ratulangi. Additionally, they took excursions to Bario Malaysia, the coastal area near Panti Tiga Warna Indonesia and Sangehi Island Indonesia to get to know the local conditions and end users better.



The primary purpose of the study visit was to conduct Co-design workshops with the partners in order to reach a first draft of the MOOC designs. These workshops lasted approximately half a day. During the Co-design sessions partners established course goals, described a typical learner, set the course structure, learning tasks and assessments, visually represented a learning unit, and determined next steps for implementation. By the conclusion of the session participants had generated a multi-page text document describing the course in detail, a visual representation of the course and list of “next steps”.

Since each MOOC has very different goals one of the first steps was establishing targets for each course. All the courses shared some common secondary goals. In particular, they share a desire to build community, empower disadvantaged people, create role models and to improve the financial situation of the learners.

Once the goals were clearly defined, attention shifted to the target audience, their characteristics, needs and challenges specific to the local context. In general, future learners are of working age, and un-or underemployed. While some learners, particularly in the Philippines, have higher levels of education most learners have finished primary school and many have completed secondary school. Internet access and digital literacy are by far two of the biggest challenges facing all of the partners.  While in some areas internet is available on mobile phones, reliable internet and devices such as tablets and PCs are generally not available in the target areas. Additionally, most of the potential learners have little or no experience using technology for anything beyond communication and entertainment. An overview of the commonalities and differences of the settings and the specific challenges are represented in the table below.



As a next step all the partners worked together in order to create a visual representation of the courses’ learning structures based on a simple graphic language. The model is divided into four roles, facilitator, learner, small groups of learners, and the MOOC community. In it the learning path is shown by the existence of learning objects and emerging learning objects as well as Feedback and tools being placed within each of the roles and labeled with its relationship to the various roles. The result is a model of the standard learning unit for each MOOC.  Some of these models can be seen below:


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As can be seen in these designs, and the accompanying text document, these designs share some common elements. All of the courses are using video to communicate basic/theoretical knowledge. They also all incorporate some element of face-to-face learning in order to build community, promote interaction between the learners and develop social support. The designs differ significantly in the level of formality, flexibility, the role of the teacher/facilitator, and the focus on either individual vs. social forms of learning.

Finally, the co-design sessions ended with determining and recording the next steps for each of the partners summarized in the following table:



Additionally,  the partners organized excursions to the sights where the future learners live and work. The first excursion was to Bario Malaysia. Despite it being a holiday weekend we were able to meet with and talk to some of the potential users as well as see the infrastructure and local context. From Malang out a visit to the southern coast was arranged. Here there were meetings with the Port Authority, a local conservation group, and a visit to the extension campus of the Universitias Brawijaya. Finally, from Manado we visited Sangihe island. There we meet with the University of Applied Sciences president, the Regency, and the head of the local church as well as touring the region. Additionally Professor Weinberger gave a guest lecture to ICT students at the local university.


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The study visit was extremely successful having accomplished all of the established goals. It was possible to complete project deliverables, move the MOOCs forward in the design process, and cement partnerships with external partners.

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