A story “facilitates instruction directly through verbal or linguistic means and indirectly by aiding in the mental construction of a sequence of events enacted for or by the learner” (Andrews, Hull & Donahue, 2009).
In January and February 2014 University of Strathclyde ran the institution’s first the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Introduction to Forensic Science” on the FutureLearn platform. The course had 27,000 enrolments with participants from 130 countries. This MOOC taught the fundamental principles of forensic science supported by a filmed murder-mystery “Murder on the Loch” with episodes of the case study revealed in short video segments each week. Each week forensic science concepts eg fingermarks, drugs, DNA were introduced and related to the unfolding crime case. The course concluded with participants voting on the guilt or innocence of the primary suspect based on the analysis of the evidence provided in light of the forensic science principles covered. The ideas of MOOC retention and completion and what these entail and how they can be improved is controversial. However, the story-telling device was shown to be effective in retaining participants throughout the six weeks of the course with 28% of participants active in the first week still active in the final week. This can be compared with the reported typical completion rate of 7% (Jordan as cited by Parr, 2013).
The murder-mystery story, being “believable, rememberable, and entertaining” (Neuhauser, 1993), underlined the second principle of the course – that of an underpinning of fun. This led the course to be developed with a conscious effort to engage participants in activities which were closely aligned to materials and learning outcomes but stimulated students through enjoyable exploration outside of the course core website. Such activities included learning to take fingerprints, shoe impressions and participants extracting their own DNA.
The resulting course was therefore different in its developmental imperatives than many traditional campus-based courses. Run successfully as a MOOC, the course is now being run for a first year undergraduate course. This session looks at the possible impact of the factors of story-telling and fun on this success.
Andrews, D., Hull, T., & Donahue, J. (September 2009). Storytelling as an Instructional Method: Descriptions and Research Question. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning. 2(3), 6-23.
Neuhauser, P. C. (1993). Corporate Legends and Lore: The Power of Storytelling as a Management Tool. McGraw-Hill.
Parr, C. (2013) “Mooc completion rates ‘below 7%’” Times Higher Education, 9 May [Online]. Available at: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/mooc-completion-rates-below-7/2003710.article (Accessed: 5 June 2014).
|Affiliation||University of Strathclyde|