Design Patterns for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

A small scale project funded under the University of London Centre for Distance Education’s  Teaching and Research Awards scheme.
Start date: March 2014 and running until April 2014

Project website

MOOC Design Patterns List


The goals of the project have been to explore, define and articulate the emerging design principles and patterns that underpin the development and delivery of massive open online courses, and to demonstrate them by the application to the design of new MOOCS. The context of the proposal has been multidimensional and incorporated input from diverse but complimentary perspectives that has included designers, deliverers, researchers, learners and tutors who are engaged in MOOCS and Open and Distance Learning more broadly.


The rapid rise of massive open online courses as led to a series of different approaches to their delivery, pedagogy, functionalities and support mechanisms. Some have these have been successful and others not so successful – for an example we can see high variability in the documented retention rates across different MOOC offerings.

The primary questions within this proposal are driven by a desire to understand the design processes and mechanisms by which we come to create and deliver open and distance learning at scale and by extension how we can formulate this into sharable design solutions that can be applied by others. Particularly where we are observing differentiation and varying degrees of success in the current landscape as defined by:

  • Delivery modes and platform choices;
  • Style of MOOC;
  • Reported experiences of learners;
  • Reported experiences of tutors;
  • Use of motivational schemes such as micro-certification e.g. badging;
  • Retention and progression figures;
  • Use of analytics;

The project has deployed the SNaP! (Scenarios, Narratives, and Patterns) methodology implemented in the form of Participatory Patterns Workshops (PPW). This was extended to a hybrid format, where the face-to-face workshops were be echoed by open online activities.

The outputs have included a set of design patterns (21 in total) and a prospective pattern language to support the continued development of MOOCs in relation to the particular design challenges this form of ODL presents. The proposal also experimented with the SNaP!/PPW design itself by extending the workshops to include a parallel set of massively open online workshop activities to support extended participation from global experts and practitioners.

Project Team


  • Professor Steven Warburton: Head of Department of Technology Enhanced Learning, University of Surrey


  • Dr Yishay Mor: PAU Education

Invited experts core group

  • Mike Kerrison: Director of Academic Development, University of London International Programmes
  • Professor Alan Tait: Open University UK
  • Dr Roger Mills: Research Associate and Senior Member, St. Edmunds College, University of Cambridge
  • Dr Iolanda Garcia: Academic at UOC eLearn Centre, Barcelona
  • Dr Stylianos Hatzipanagos, CTEL, King’s College London


Project Cards

Some of the project design planning cards in use 


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