Yesterday our (that’s me and my partner in crime Sam Burrough) mini-MOOC opened its doors to 150-plus participants. I have previously written about how we came to create a MOOC here.

I didn’t realise quite how excited I would feel when I logged into the course to find lots of people had already started consuming the content we had shared and had started discussing the questions we had posed. Participants are dotted all over the world so our friends down under got busy on the course while UK participants slept – the course went live at midnight GMT.

We have also had some lovely feedback about our comms for the course.

@burrough @martincouzins Impressed with your pre-course comms chaps. #dcurate

— Barbara Thompson (@CaribThompson) January 7, 2014

As the course is now open, I wanted to mark the occasion with a little more detail about what we have created. Search MOOC on Google and you will see there is much written about it and much made of its potential.

I follow the discussions on the topic in my capacity as LearnPatch editor but have yet to complete a MOOC despite the fact I have signed up to a few and started one.

MOOCs are platforms in which people can consume and share content at their own pace. There might be opportunities for live (synchronous) participation too. But essentially, there is no one telling you when to attend and what you must do – that’s why I dropped out of the one I signed up to and never attended the others. Motivation is key.

So, in our MOOC we have created a space where people interested in the topic – How to be an effective digital curator – can come to consume content, provided by us, and participate in discussions around that content. We provide reading/watching times for each piece of content so that participants know what to expect when they click on content. We have also posed a question alongside that content to provoke some reflection and critical thinking and to spark discussion.

We are using a platform called Curatr.

As well as managing sign-ups and comms for the course, Curatr provides some game mechanics. This means that as course designers we are able to create levels and assign points to participant activity (e.g. reading a piece, making a comment). This means we can  embed an element of gaming into the course so that participants have to earn enough points to ‘level up’. It also provides a way to navigate through the course.

The course has been split into seven levels and in each level we have four or five related bits of content and discussion questions. Participants comment and reply to other comments – they get an email alert when someone replies to their comment to prompt them to respond. At the end of each level there is a ‘gate’ which we set – this could be a question, comment, a task – which participants need to do to complete the level. There is also a leader board showing who has earned the most points.

Curatr has a simple design which easy to navigate – here is what the content looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 09.51.19

It has also been developed in HTML 5 which means it should be usable on any device. It is browser based so no apps are downloaded to get up and running.

Sam and I decided we wanted to do something live (synchronous) so we have scheduled two Twitter chats – one this week and one next week. These will take place on the #dcurate Twitter hashtag which we are using for support, discussion and sharing. We realise that not all participants are on Twitter so have offered to help anyone who wants to get started. We will also be curating tweets as we go using Storify and sharing them with participants.

The chat will be based on discussions that have arisen so far.

So, we have created a space and a reason to be in that space but there all similarities with courses end. It is up to participants to make of it what they will and as this is the first time we have done this we are not yet clear what people will make of it.

We know already that people are willing to participate because we have had great discussions. How useful this will be remains to be seen.

What is interesting is that there is a lot of peer to peer activity. We have created a shared space and there is a common reason to be in it i.e. to understand more about digital curation. Some people know more than others and everyone has different knowledge and experiences. This is what makes it so engaging.

And this is why Sam and I are now working full tilt on facilitating the event, sharing nuggets and tips on Twitter, responding to comments and so on. As we have a global audience there is something happening pretty much around the clock.

But we are not standing at the front of class delivering content. We have spent a lot of time designing the course and curating the content for it from across the web. Now people are actively taking part our role has changed – we are there to help, share, ask, respond, to bring people back in (via regular email updates and Twitter shares).

As we are learning as we go, we also feel there is an opportunity to add value to the experience for participants. The discussion around the content has been very high quality so we think we should be looking at pulling that together and sharing it out to participants and beyond – if participants would be happy with that. That’s something we need to discuss, but this is an example of how the MOOC experience is there to be shaped.

The course is two weeks long and this is only day two. However, I feel I have learned a lot already. I hope we can sustain the momentum over the next two weeks and I am sure Sam and I will learn a lot about doing so in the coming days.

And as for what participants get out of it. I hope the course provides space to explore a topic (and key skill set), learn from others, connect with others and gain the knowledge and skills to start curating the web in a useful way. And if people come in for a minute, hour, day and just nose around then that’s OK too. There are no rules so we can shape this as we go.

Finally, a huge thankyou to Sam for putting in so much effort. It has been a great team effort.