Interview with Dr. Stalburg: MOOC Creator Reflects on Lessons Learned and OER

Dr. Stalburg is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medical Education at the University of Michigan Medical School. She is actively involved in medical education, having attained a Master of Arts in higher education and post-secondary education from the School of Education at the University of Michigan.

In August 2013, Dr. Caren Stalburg and her course “Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education” joined the University of Michigan massive online open course (MOOC) collection on Coursera. At Open.Michigan, we’re extremely excited about this course because it’s the first U-M MOOC to apply Creative Commons licenses to all of its downloadable materials. Meaning that the materials are both freely accessible via Coursera and Open.Michigan, and the materials are licensed for remixing and reuse by students and educators for their own teaching and learning purposes.

The legal remix and reuse options made available by the Creative Commons licenses are not yet commonly found on the Coursera platform, so we’re delighted that Dr. Stalburg has chosen to blaze this trail in the MOOC landscape. In light of the course starting back up on Feb. 3rd, it’s a great time to sit down with Dr. Stalburg to discuss her first MOOC experience and her decision to publish the course’s materials as open educational resources.

Screen capture from Skill Assessment (03.02) video by Dr. Caren Stalburg. CC BY NC

What interested you the most about teaching this class as a MOOC?

The novelty, scope, and accessibility of the pedagogical concept. I mean the opportunity to reach thousands of health professions educators around the globe and help them learn how to educate healthcare providers in their own locale was both a thrilling idea and a scary one! Most individuals who train others to provide health care don’t have a formal background in educational theory nor do they necessarily have a cadre of local colleagues who focus on creating and assessing instructional interventions. I saw this as a way to ground a discussion, share best practices, and hopefully create a space where individuals could share and learn from one another. The open educational platform was also very appealing to me from the perspective of access and reach. There is a need for teaching and training healthcare providers in a variety of locales around the globe and the open educational resource opportunity just seemed like a fantastic way to facilitate access to information and ideas in areas of limited resources–whether those resources be time, availability, or funds to go get an additional degree.

What has surprised you the most about this experience?

I would say the response from individuals who have participated in the course. The sheer number of individuals engaged was more than I could have imagined. In addition, to see their very thoughtful and informed discussion in the forums has been an eye-opening experience as well as a humbling one. The power of the distributed platform is more than I anticipated. I have learned from others’ expertise and gotten validation that no matter the locale, there are shared interests, successes and struggles that come from teaching others to provide health care. People have utilized a variety of techniques and creativity to develop educational interventions and their willingness to share those ideas, discuss options, and support others in that space is just special. The idea of ‘crowd-sourcing’ is in some ways transformed, and while really grandiose, if you follow the chain then this course helps someone teach someone else how to be a successful nurse, therapist, pharmacist, health care advocate, physician, dentist etc etc. who then has the potential to improve the health of another person in the future. At first I thought that that was a crazy claim or even just hubris, but looking at the number, variety, and locale of individuals who have participated in the first offering of the course I can only wonder about the downstream effects. People laugh because I get a bit romantic about the whole thing, but there really is a ‘butterfly effect’ I think. As we develop more experience with the course, I hope to look for tangible outcomes that can support my hypothesis that you can use this space for professional development and see improvement in people’s skills as educators.

Why share the class materials with Creative Commons licenses?

Why not? While I understand that my interpretation, distillation, and restructuring of the material is my ‘intellectual property’, I also recognize that my organized understanding is based on the work of other scholars. Scholars who have previously shared and published their work too. Just as I have in some ways ‘remixed’ the ideas of those before me into my own unique perspective, I would hope that others could use this course as a base for their own ‘mash-ups’ and movement forward. Hopefully academia will recognize that just like we calculate a citation index score for one’s published material in traditional spaces, we can also generate scholarly rubrics and ‘value’ for numbers such as CC license attributions of your work, or number of downloads, or even the variety and scope of domains where your work is incorporated.

Metacognition, Slide 1 by Caren Stalburg. CC BY SA

As someone who is familiar with both MOOCs and OER, what advice do you have for faculty members who are interested in exploring these concepts?

First, it takes twice to three times the amount of time to create the MOOC than you even can guess. However, once it is produced, it is easy to manage. And easily adaptable. I would also recommend engaging with someone who is very very familiar with copyright laws, attribution rules, and the like. I have been fortunate to have a fantastic amount of support, particularly from Open.Michigan and Dave Malicke particularly! Once I learned the principles involved, and the places where shared resources reside, it was very straightforward. I also have to say that reaching out to the publishers of the textbooks that I recommend for my course has been an easy process. The folks at the publishing houses have been supportive and have quickly given their permissions and preferred formats for attribution. The publishing companies understand and support this new space and are also starting to participate in it, so for me it has been a win-win.

Preparing for the unique pedagogy of the environment takes time to prepare and refine. It is much different than the way we traditionally teach and so you have to be intentional about it before launch. You need to limit videos to short, purposeful topics, provide resources that are available around the globe, and be cognizant of language and normative cultural differences. In some ways things we should be doing in ‘real-time’ anyway!

Assessments within the MOOC are also novel, so those take time to prepare and refine.

Have your experiences teaching this MOOC and publishing OER impacted your approaches to teaching and sharing with on-campus students?

Absolutely. Creating a MOOC requires a different skill set than standing up in a lecture hall. There are principles of on-line instruction, brevity, clarity and sequencing that can be transferred to my ‘real-time’ teaching. I have learned a lot about ‘editing’ myself!


Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education” starts again on February 3. Click on “Learn for Free” and register today to join Dr. Stalburg and a new group of students on Coursera. You can also find additional OERs, either authored or co-authored by Dr. Stalburg, within our M2 Reproduction and MedEd Portal collections.