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Crosby's Design Narrative

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Tiffany Crosby
4 March 2013


As an entrepreneur, educator, researcher, writer, and owner of an educational firm, it's encumbent upon me to stay abreast of emerging trends in the field. As I was reading one of the many magazines that I peruse regularly, I came across a mention of MOOCs. I had not heard of them before but the article seemed to imply that it was an emerging trend that was going to reshape the educational industry. So I decided that I needed to educate myself on MOOCs and the best way to do that was to participate in one. At the time, I was already completing an open course on psychology through CMU but it was a self-study course; no interaction with instructors or other participants. I enjoyed having the access to the materials and I believe this experience made me more receptive to participating in a MOOC.


I decided that if I was going to participate in a MOOC, than I wanted to also work on an issue that I thought was very relevant to business education. Currently, business education and social sciences are non-integrated fields of study. You go to school for one or the other. If you're fortunate, you may be able to use a general elective to take a psychology class as a business major. But that class won't relate what you learn to practical business skills like motivating individuals, leading teams, organizational norms and culture, talent development, etc. A solid grounding in psychology is paramount for successful leaders and often results in significant training costs as the person progresses in their career. So the question was: "how do I integrate this knowledge in a manner that fits within a business curriculum?"


Using my business leadership experience and the knowledge gained through CMU's Psychology class, I defined the body of knowledge relevant for a business psychology class. Essentially, I answered three questions:

1) What aspects of human behavior do business leaders need to understand in order to improve relationships and foster collaboration?

2) What aspects of human behavior do business leaders need to understand in order to influence decision-making?

3) What experiential activities would best suit adult learners needing to better understand and apply human psychology?

Using these questions, I settled on four areas of psychology most relevant to the business leader: social, cognitive, organizational, and educational. I also determined that a high-level of self-awareness was necessary for individuals to adequately analyze and assess situations. Therefore, I decided that an initial unit focused on understanding self was the best place to start. This unit would look at the four focus areas from an individual instead of a collective perspective.

I then used the skills acquired from this MOOC to define the user profile and experience, design the course layout, build out a prototype, identify some basic OER resources, and develop a plan for further design and evaluation post-course completion. I had to do research in each of the areas to identify the best way to engage the user given the MOOC environment. I was particularly interested in:

- How to create interactive case studies

- How to integrate a gaming / social learning aspect

- How to engage participants in applying the skills in their workplace as part of the actual MOOC course.

These considerations informed the initial prototype design.


As a result of participation in this course, I believe I have a solid plan for building a business psychology MOOC. The feedback from instructors and participants has been tremendously helpful in expanding my thinking. There is still a lot of work to do and I still need to secure funding to actual build out the course but I'm excited about its prospects.


The one aspect that I found challenging was forming any type of cohesive team. Because people were participating for a wide variety of reasons and with drastically varying levels of commitment, it was hard to form a team that could see a project through. As noted in some people's comments, they only planned to participate for a few weeks just to get the feel, others just wanted exposure to the tools, while still others wanted to complete the whole course. Sorting through all these motivating factors to find one that matches with yours with the sheer number of participants was quite difficult. I also found the different forums used for chats based on people's preferences confusing as well. It was hard to keep up with which groups were forming. In the end, I opted out of any group discussions except those happening through the cloudscapes set up for that purpose because it was too much to keep up with. If I plan to make project / group work a part of my MOOC (which I do), I think I have to give some additional thought as to ways to make it easier for people but that is still scaleable. I think that's a difficult one.

Extra content

Embedded Content


Tom Reeves
2:31pm 9 March 2013

Great work, Tiffany. You wrote: “The one aspect that I found challenging was forming any type of cohesive team.” This is one of the difficulties that caused the collapse of Coursera MOOC earlier this year: (It was ironic that this failed MOOC was focused on “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application.”) And even when a team can be formed at the beginning of a MOOC or another online course, there are many challenges involved in maintaining productive group work over the length of the learning experience. I am currently involved in an evaluation of an online course for public health professionals in developing countries. The beta version of the course launched just last week. The course design is based on authentic tasks that the participants must complete in three person teams. Right away, one of the participants complained when the other members of her team indicated that they wanted to work on the tasks over the weekend, noting that her weekends were committed to family and other non-work related responsibilities. This complaint was recognized as legitimate, but it is complicated because what constitutes a weekend varies around the world. For example, in some Middle Eastern countries, Thursday and Friday are the "weekend," and Saturday is the first day of the work week. In the end, the course leaders simply asked people to do the best they could under the circumstances, noting that the course design required 7-10 hours of work per week, but it would be up to each team to work out when and how they completed the tasks. Clearly, the availability and flexibility of participants is another variable that must be considered when forming online learning groups. – Tom Reeves

Art Oglesby
2:34pm 9 March 2013


Know Thyself - self assessment tools enabling one  to become aware of how one thinks, decides, communicates, learns and leads really makes sense to me.

For my project (a self organized learning environment) I think I will strongly recommend a module like yours. I signed up for a "Know Thyself" coursera mooc last week but your design is more what I am looking for. I came across some self assessment tests in other moocs and will search the OER for  more.


Tiffany Crosby
3:38pm 9 March 2013 (Edited 3:41pm 9 March 2013)

Tom, Thank you for bringing that article to my attention, I had not seen that before. It certainly gives me pause as I think through how to properly scale my learning design. I'm not nearly as set on the technology plan as I would like to be so I will definitely have to consult with someone on this and use this as a case study. Lets connect on LinkedIn or twitter so we can continue to stay in touch post course completion.

Tiffany Crosby
3:40pm 9 March 2013

Art, Thank you for being willing to contribute to this course design. The validation that you provided through your comments is encouraging to me. Lets connect through LinkedIn so that we can continue to communicate after course completion.

Joshua Underwood
8:40am 11 March 2013

Hi Tiffany,

I'm interested in your course design and hope to keep in touch with it and see how it works out. The issue you identify about team formation and co-ordinating team work is clearly something that needs work. The anecdote Tom provides is also really useful here.

To give some insight into my 'design' thinking in week 2, the motivation behind the calendar link and 'planning' activitiy in week 2 was essentially that, to try to prompt some thinking about how to regulate team work on projects and also suggest a tool for  co-ordinating this. I see no evidence of this having worked :-(

I haven't really had a chance to look closely at relevant data and think about this but basically I still think the 'design' idea was a good one but the implementation was poor. There are various things I think were weak here:

  • 1) more needed to be done prior to this in order to help team formation and probably more time was required;
  • 2) the overall course/week design appeared too perscriptive, I might try putting activity outlines and estimated durations in a list and asking participants to work together to place them in shared/individual calendar;
  • 3) many people seem to have had trouble copying and editing the week's overview I provided;
  • 4) I think many participants couldn't see the motivation for the activity and my instructions didn't help - "Was it useful?" - "No ít was not useful at all just cofusing";
  • 5) the opportunities for using the calendar (e.g. to schedule and run team hangouts) were not illustrated/scaffold. I guess in the future I might include some tasks that walked participants through doing that.

And that is just one of the issues with the design in week 2 ;-) Another thing that didn't work as I had hoped was activity 7. That was partially inspired by my interpretation of Tom's call for authentic evaluation. Thinking about that I decided that from my perspective what I would want from a course like this (more than a badge - although I think badges do seem to have worked for some) woudl be to have a 'portfolio' I could display and recommendations from others in the field. Personally, I use LinkedIn for that kind of thing (though it is currently a bit week with regard to displaying portfolio work) hence "7.3) Solicit feedback and recognition (e.g. apply for badges, ask for skill endorsements on LinkedIn, etc)." Again, I see little evidence of people having used LinkedIn there. Perhaps, many participants don't use LinkedIn? perhaps it was too early in the course...?

Thanks for the 'design narrative'. It got me thinking about stuff I had put to the back of my mind for a while :-)



Yishay Mor
5:21pm 22 May 2014

Hi Tifani,

Perhaps you can unpack your actions section? It seems more like a sales pitch than an account of your journey. For example, when you say "Using my business leadership experience and the knowledge gained through CMU's Psychology class, I defined the body of knowledge relevant for a business psychology class" - how exactly did you do that? What were the challenges you met, and how did you confront them?



Yishay Mor
5:23pm 22 May 2014 (Edited 5:24pm 22 May 2014)


We're collecting MOOC design narratives. Would you like to share yours?



Tiffany Crosby
6:17pm 22 May 2014 (Edited 6:18pm 22 May 2014)

Yishay, I unpacked the action section a bit more. I believe the design narrative already shows up in the design cloud. Feel free to share it more broadly if you wish.

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