Moons, Toasters and MOOCs: Going Live with Google Hangouts

Catherine Chambers @Catherine_C – The Open University

Over the last five years online learning has witnessed unprecedented growth, not least in the public space, with a proliferation of OER’s, iTunes U courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The demand for learning in a collaborative, connectivist online environment is such that learning environments and presentation styles continually need to evolve to keep pace and meet the demands of learners – many of whom live their lives around social media.

The popularity of social learning signals significant potential to transform learning into a lifestyle, with the role of social media and informal learning playing a key part in this evolution. This presentation focuses on presentation styles to enhance engagement with learners and looks at the benefits of Google Hangouts as a collaborative real time social learning tool, enabling learners to connect and chat with other learners and leading experts from across the world, to discuss topical issues or view the latest discovery or research footage which can be shared through the file sharing tool.

In March 2014, the Open University’s ‘Moons’ MOOC went live; it featured three Google hangouts during the course of the 8 week MOOC. Each hangout was broadcast live at 7pm GMT, featuring international experts from the Lunar Planetary Institute in Houston answering questions live from learners, alongside the OU presenting team consisting of a lead academic and PhD research student. Each hangout ran for 45 minutes and followed a clearly developed format covering topical discussions, Q&A and research, with visual elements including rocks, a live experiment and – a toaster (the reason for which will be revealed), which became a running gag on social media.

This presentation explores how a combination of technology enhanced social learning with broadcast presentation approaches can help engage learners in the transition of learning into a lifestyle choice.