Information Services

What's Involved in Making a MOOC?

An overview of the process, timeline, and support involved in planning and developing a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a free short online course and is one type of course that the Online Course Production Service can help you develop. This page provides a high level outline of what you can expect from the Online Course Production Service (OCPS) team and the input that is required by the Content Authors (your academic team) in order to develop a MOOC. The development costs for this service are also outlined.

Planning and Approvals

The University has a formal MOOC approval process where the MOOC Strategy Group reviews the proposal. This group is chaired by Colm Harman and members include a number of assistant or vice principals, or their representatives. This Group usually meets to review proposals twice per year, in September and March.

Along with the MOOC Strategy Group approval for each MOOC we need a proposal form to be completed, a letter of support from a Head of School and Board of Studies sign off. The latter is not required for the Group approval, but is needed before the course can launch.

Each MOOC proposal also needs to confirm the required funding and time commitments for the production, which are outlined below.

Production - Funding and Time Commitment

All MOOCs require funding for production. The costs will vary depending on the amount and type of support required from the OCP team.

Our MOOCs tend to be 3-5 weeks long, but can be shorter or longer if needed. They have on average 3-6 hours of learner effort time per week. Our production process normally takes 6-9 months, from learning design to the start of the course. In the application, you will need to confirm that academics have capacity to complete this work during the development period.

We are also able to provide bespoke services to support the development of short online courses, based on your specific requirements. Please get in touch with the Online Course Production Service if you would like further information about this.

Production - Our Support

For each MOOC, we provide an Instructional Designer who will lead the team through the learning design workshop and advise on learning activities, provide guidance to the academic team on content writing and scripting, and build and QA the course.

Our Media Production team can either film in our studio, or they can support remote filming (and lend appropriate filming and audio recording equipment) before they edit and brand the videos as required.

Our Marketing team can work with you to develop a marketing plan and can help with enhancing the messages on social channels.

We would also assign a Project Manager to work with the team and coordinate the production activities.

We can also work with the team to understand any training or support that may be needed such as copyright and licencing for open courses, preparing to film, scripting, or marketing.

Production - Your Input

We need someone to act as the Course Lead for any decisions. This could be a group if required, but consulting a group can slow down decision making.

The course lead and other academics would be the Content Authors, and with our support through the process, would agree the course scope, audience and learning design. They would write all content to the agreed plan and then review and sign off the courses once built. With our support, the Content Authors would write scripts and be filmed either in person or remotely for any media.

We have a number of media production studios in Edinburgh and would encourage their use if possible, rather than location shoots, as these can be costly, as we can't as easily control the filming environment. Currently, Covid-19 restrictions may mean it is not possible for more than one person to film within a studio at a time, so we also have alternative software solutions available for filming interviews. If remote filming is required, there are different ways we can support this. Supplementary film equipment can be loaned out for people to use at home and one-to-one support is available to help set up lighting, audio and camera equipment.

Our Instructional Designers will work with your team to make sure that media is only invested in where this is important for the message and learner engagement. Media can be costly to produce and change at a later date, so we always consider all options to convey the learning objective. All media goes through a review and subtitling process.

You will need to assign a Teaching Assistant (TA) for learner support while the course is being taught. As MOOCs are quite an investment to produce, each MOOC is expected to be run for a minimum of 3 years initial committment, but we can discuss that if there are any issues linked to funding for this aspect.


MOOCs operate on a revenue share, which is based on learners paying for certification, and is split between the MOOC platform partner (edX, Coursera, FutureLearn) and the academic department developing the MOOC. No revenue is withheld by the production team, unless this is arranged in advance to recover production costs. Usually production costs are paid for up front by the Academic Team. Depending on which platform your MOOC is launched on, there may also be a minimum contribution per course run, which is deducted from the revenue share.

MOOC certificates are generally priced at around £50. However, the bulk of learners will not buy a certificate and will complete the course for free (known as the audit track). Some courses are available through a subscription model. When learners pay for certification, this is known as the verified track. There are many variables that can impact the number of paid learners you might expect, but our starter would be to understand the target audience and the demand and uniqueness of the course topic, as well as your goals for the MOOC.