Building a MOOC in the cloud, using Microsoft Azure

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It would be fair to call MOOCs a phenomenon (Phenomenon: Something notable: something that is out of the ordinary and excites people’s interest and curiosity). They have created an enormous amount of interest and curiosity – and jumped up to the top of the agenda for ‘EdTech futurists’ and any reports that look at what’s the next big thing. A lot of the attention has focused on the MOOCs coming out of the US – like edX and Coursera – which some of the big Australian universities have signed up for (The University of Melbourne aligned with Coursera, whilst The University of Sydney aligned with edX). But it’s not a one-way street across the Pacific – there have been plenty of local MOOCs developed within Australia.

DeakinConnect headerDeakin University’s open learning space, Deakin Connect, is a purpose-built platform developed in conjunction with a Microsoft partner, Janison, which enables  Deakin University to innovate in assessment, as well as online learning. Rather than try to test and measure student success, the course prompts learners to create and share rich evidence of their attainment of learning outcomes. Peers can award credit badges, signifying that they believe the participant’s exhibit shows mastery of learning outcomes. These can be shared on social media platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook.

I’ve attached a case study (see below) which explores why the Deakin University approach has been different to other universities, and how they have been able to focus on the educational outcomes they have been aiming to achieve, rather than compromising their educational journey to match somebody else’s technology. And their results so far – with registered participants from 80 countries, and having learners pay a fee for their work to be accredited by Deakin University (one of the first in the world to make a successful step towards a new accreditation business model through the MOOC). 

As Wendy Palmer, Head of Learning Design from DeakinPrime, says in the case study:

  It’s not as if there are a lot of universities out there doing this. It’s not an established business model by any means. This really is cutting-edge stuff.  

In the case study, Wendy also talks about the learning journey, for both DeakinPrime and the MOOC students:


Content curation was the other major focus of the project. Rather than write lots of online learning, we’re actually using the system as a means of elegantly ordering information that’s already out there, pulling it together into a structured learning journey. Janison’s Course Builder really helped us to do that very quickly and simply. I’ve worked on many other Learning Management Systems and what I can do in an hour on the Janison CLS, I know would have taken me days in other systems. So, not only do we have an excellent system for elearning we also benefit from rapid deployment…

A lot of the MOOC learning systems are in the format of just a video with associated multiple-choice questions. One week we decided to try this format for one of the modules. We got a real backlash on the discussion boards with comments like: ‘We’re so disappointed, we didn’t think this was that sort of course’. We had actually planned to use this format more. We ended up changing from multiple choices to an FAQ format, and then directing users to resources so they could research them further if they wanted to find out more. We didn’t receive any negative backlash from that. The system enabled us to adapt really quickly to learners’ expectations and requirements. We have the flexibility to change the courses as we progress and to give our users the learning experience they need.


The DeakinConnect MOOC is built upon the Janison Cloud Learning System (CLS) which provides a platform being used within Australia for learning management, distance learning and online assessment, in educational, government and commercial organisations.

Learn MoreRead the full DeakinConnect MOOC case study

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