Tell me a story: developing a MOOC pedagogy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In January 2014, The University of Strathclyde ran the institution’s first the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Introduction to Forensic Science” on the FutureLearn platform which is operated by The Open University. The course had over 26,000 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 e.g. fingermarks, drugs, DNA were introduced and related to the unfolding crime case.

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 learners through enjoyable exploration outside of the course core website. Such activities included learning to take fingerprints, shoe impressions and participants extracting their own DNA. Such a combination of activities and storytelling proved a massive success, one we were extremely keen to replicate in future MOOC course design.

Storytelling has now inherently become the MOOC pedagogy at the University of Strathclyde. Building upon the success of our first and highly successful MOOC, the University of Strathclyde has worked hard over the past year to replicate this success by focusing on utilising storytelling in the pedagogical design of our newest MOOCs.

From a rogue computer virus that unleashes chaos worldwide in our ‘Introduction to Journalism’ MOOC where learners explore the key principles and debates in journalism and enact the role of a journalist in the context of an escalating story.

To the heart wrenching and hard hitting story of Billy, a vulnerable young boy and his mother Karen and the various care challenges they face. In this course, learners develop an understanding of some of the approaches involved in caring for vulnerable children.

Drawing upon learner feedback from our first MOOC and examining the lessons learned, I will outline how we have managed to grow our learner base from 27,000 learners to over 100,000+ learners in just over a year. By comparing and contrasting between the various MOOCs, I will explore the challenges and the opportunities each course has offered and how we are now attempting to apply our MOOC pedagogy into undergraduate course design at the University of Strathclyde.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationINTED 2016 Conference Proceedings
Editors Luis Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, I. Candel Torres
Place of Publication[Valencia]
PublisherInternational Academy of Technology, Education and Development (IATED)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9788460856177
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • MOOC
  • MOOCs
  • massive open online courses
  • pedagogy
  • storytelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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