I’d like to share an article that recently came out in the current issue of Negotiation Journal; an article that reflects, essentially, the main effort of the past two years of professional work.

2014 was, for me, The Year of the MOOC. Most of my time that year was dedicated to creating a Massive Open Online Course entitled Negotiation: Navigating Professional and Personal Interactions. This course was the first MOOC to be offered by Creighton University and by the Werner Institute at the university’s School of Law.

On the one hand, this was a year of solitary deliberation: How do I do this best?  What needs to be taught, and how? How do I make sure that the course is able to speak to an unknown body of participants, located all around the world, all taking the course for their own reasons and all dedicating different levels of investment? And – how do I do this in a way that ensures engaged and present teacher-student interaction, of the kind that typifies every really good negotiation class?

On the other hand, this was also the year in which I asked for, and received, more professional help, guidance and participation than in any other year in my career. I requested, and received, help, from Creighton’s instructional designers and information technology experts, from former students and current peers, and from a wide range of negotiation experts, in academia and in practice. I received no end of good advice, practical help, and offers to participate and share the load. There was a life-lesson in this for me. And, there is no ‘I’ in MOOC!

The course itself, taught at the end of 2014, was the pinnacle of all this. Over 2,000 students registered from 87 countries across the world. Some of them were familiar – graduates of the Werner Institute’s masters program in negotiation and dispute resolution, colleagues from across the Creighton campus, family members who wanted to know just what this MOOC thing I’ve dedicated the past year to – and this negotiation stuff I’ve negotiated my career to – are, anyhow. There were others with whom I was only familiar with from the online world – mediators working in far off places across the US and around the world, educators interested in online teaching and in MOOCs. There were others who I will likely never know – people participating with first names only, or under a pseudonym. All came together for four weeks to make NegMOOC, as the course was familiarly called, a fascinating experience, for students and teacher alike.

2015 was, for me, not only the Year of Recuperating from the Year of the MOOC (reintroducing myself to my wife and kids, etc.), but also the Year of Figuring It All Out. The MOOC may have been a fascinating project for me and (hopefully) a fun, interesting and/or enlightening experience for its students – but there was a bigger picture to consider. The MOOC vehicle, and the unfettered educational opportunity it presents, has, in my opinion, great promise for the negotiation and conflict engagement field. I wanted to figure out just what might be learned from the NegMOOC experience – and what practices might advance the use of MOOCs for creating a fundamental shift in the number of people around the world who are exposed to the basic concepts of our field.

2015, therefore, was dedicated to going through NegMOOC and all of the data it provided, and learning. Additionally, I explored the current literature on MOOCs – literature that simply had not existed only two years before, as I began planning NegMOOC. I wrote up the results of all this learning, in a journal article that covers four main topics:

MOOCs: What they are, what might be done with them, and critique of the method.

MOOC Design: What design considerations and options exist, what my choices were for NegMOOC, and what teachers might consider doing in designing their own MOOCs

The NegMOOC experience: A description of the course’s content, its actual, and the data on student -learning and -experience collected from the course.

The Big-Picture ‘So What?’: A discussion of why all this is, in my opinion, important for the conflict engagement and negotiation field, and what the field has to benefit from investing effort and intellect in developing and teaching future MOOCs.

This learning process, and the writing process, were my 2015. The good news for 2016, is that the article has finally been published. You can access a pre-print version of it here.

I hope you find it interesting, and hope even further that if you have any comments or ideas, you share them with me. Perhaps more importantly, I hope that you might be the next to undertake conducting such a course – and that you do so better and more successfully than I did. I look forward to hearing all about it – or to participating in it as one of your ten thousand students.

Good luck!

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