How Snapchat Can Enhance User Experience in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Apr 14, 2016 11:00:00 AM Justin Barbaro Education Technology

Snapchat: one of the premier ways in which millennials and gen-z’ers communicate with one another. But what is it, and how can Snapchat be used to enhance distance learning through Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) primarily attended by working professionals with at least one degree beyond high school?

Snapchat is a free mobile messaging app through which users send video clips (known as “snaps”) to be viewed by a select group of recipients predetermined by the user. The distinction, however, is that individual snaps can only last up to ten seconds in length and disappear instantly after viewing. Snapchat has hundreds of uses and features beyond this introductory description; however, the app in its current form has immediate potential uses for higher education, in particular distance learning through MOOCs.

For Students: Meetups, or in-person gatherings of MOOC course-takers, are a key component of many successful open online courses. There are a significant number of people located all around the world who are deeply engaged in continuing education using MOOCs: the edX Dhaka Community in Bangladesh currently has 661 members, a Learning to Code meetup in Amsterdam has 514 members, and the Open Bioinformatics Group in San Diego, California has 207 members. Snapchat can help meetup organizers increase participant engagement by recording snaps of events and sharing these recordings around the world via the Snapchat app with other like-interested meetup groups. This novel usage could further promote enrollee commitment to a global community of fellow MOOCers and partially assist MOOCs providers in addressing the constant challenge of providing socially-engaging experiences for enrollees.   

For Instructors: Snapchat enables professors to be spontaneous despite the often rigid, planned nature of MOOC course formatting. Case in point: the academic rant. Professors engaging in passionate, relevant tangents is often one of the highlights of any formal higher education experience. Snaps allow professors to recreate that spontaneity at any time, whether creating a string of thoughts through a Snap story or simply sharing relevant daily news of note. These ephemeral epiphanies can then be shared with students synchronously or asynchronously, building student engagement in coursework as enrollees receive real-time notices from their MOOC instructors.

For MOOC Providers: Snaps can help provide an additional layer of verification for certificate courses. Providers such as Coursera have turned to monetizing content through certification, with as many as 25% of students attending Coursera MOOCs enlisting in paid certification programs including in disciplines including Big Data, Digital Marketing, and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). Coursera currently employs advanced methods for personal verification such as keynote strike patterns and image verification. However, MOOC providers could include an additional layer of verification by asking course takers to snap and send responses to certain answers during assessment activities. This action might also provide opportunities for course instructors to meet their students, if only for a few moments.