5 Challenges Encountered When Creating a MOOC During COVID-19

LIM Siu Chen, Sukanya Naidu, & TOH Kim Kee
NUS Libraries

Sukanya, Kim Kee and Siu Chen provide an overview of how they developed a MOOC,
particularly the challenges they encountered during the process and key lessons they learnt.

Image © National University of Singapore Libraries

Lim S. C., Naidu, S., Toh K. K. (2022, April 27). 5 challenges encountered when creating a MOOC during COVID-19. Teaching Connections, https://blog.nus.edu.sg/teachingconnections/2022/04/26/5-challenges-encountered-when-creating-a-mooc-course-during-covid-19/


This post documents the process of creating the edX MOOC “The Art and Science of Searching in Systematic Reviews” by NUS Libraries. We share 5 major challenges our team1 faced during the MOOC creation process and some helpful tips from our experience.

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Identifying a Gap to Fill in the MOOC Market

  • Finding a Niche in the MOOC Market. The first challenge was identifying a topic that would fill a legitimate gap in an already huge MOOC market. It was reported that over 2800 courses were launched by MOOC providers in 2020 alone (Shah, 2020). We hence wanted to avoid creating a MOOC in which its content overlapped substantially with another already established MOOC.
  • Identifying an In-demand MOOC Topic. We knew there was a demand within NUS for a course on systematic review searching, as NUS Libraries had received many requests from the NUS Community to conduct workshops and consultations on the topic. However, we also needed to identify a MOOC topic that would meet global demand.
  • Differentiating the MOOC Topic from Others. To this end, we perused existing MOOCs on systematic reviews and found that all were focused on its application in clinical medicine. We therefore distinguished our MOOC by taking an interdisciplinary perspective, to address the needs of researchers and students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.

Conforming to the MOOC Platform’s Requirements When Planning Course Content

It was necessary to structure our course according to the edX platform. We were helped by the following:

  • Partnerships with CIT and CDTL from inception to launch on matters such as technical requirements, pedagogy and assessment
  • A team with diverse and complementary strengths such as project management, content development and video creation.
  • Attending the online course “edX101: Overview of Creating an edX Course
  • Consulting the edX guide “Building and Running an edX Course

Acquiring and Executing Video Creation Skills

Apart from a good storyboard, creating high-quality videos for content development was a must, which proved challenging for our team: our project was scheduled at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown and circuit breaker measures. We often could not meet physically in larger groups, and it was sometimes not feasible to record videos at the CIT studio.

In response, we armed ourselves with skills in Camtasia and recorded most of the videos ourselves: trimming, adjusting audio, and adding effects before sending the raw footage to our CIT colleagues for final editing.

Since a large proportion of our videos comprised screencasts, we could record and re-record in our own time, a luxury not afforded to us in a recording studio where all footage must be recorded within the allotted time.

Timely Rights Clearance for Intellectual Property Used

The MOOC audience is global. Copyright considerations are accordingly stricter than the traditional module which comprises only full-time NUS students (NUS Libraries, n.d.).

To ensure compliance, we:

  • sought permission from publishers of databases for our screencasts
  • used only open access publications licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY)
  • used images and videos only from free-use licensed sources
  • created our own graphics, visuals and animations
  • used the above with proper attribution

The permissions process was lengthy and took up to 2 months. We were glad on hindsight that we made a list of copyrighted works to be used and obtained clearance early in the creation process.

Publicity and Promotion of the MOOC to an Internal and External Audience

As our audience is global, we had to communicate the MOOC to both the NUS Community and beyond. This necessitated a communications strategy which included but was not limited to:




Internal to NUS

  • Publishing our edX MOOC’s “About” page
  • Creating and mounting the trailer video on YouTube
  • Creating social media posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
  • e-Flyer to NUS Community

External to NUS 

  • Social media posts
  • Promotional emails to professional networks

Within 6 months of launching the MOOC “The Art and Science of Searching in Systematic Reviews”, more than 700 learners from 77 countries have enrolled in the course.

Final Thoughts

MOOC content creation differs from traditional modules in the following ways:  

  1. Identifying a gap in the global market
  2. Fulfilling MOOC platform requirements
  3. Necessity of creating high-quality videos
  4. Copyright considerations
  5. Publicising and promoting the course to a global audience

Potential MOOC creators should be aware of the additional challenges that the above factors bring and equip themselves accordingly.

NUS has a variety resources including funding, resource guides, recording equipment and training available to support MOOC creators in their journey.


LIM Siu Chen is a research librarian at NUS Libraries. Her interests relate to copyright and digital information literacy. She has experience providing information literacy instruction as part of the Law Resource and Humanities & Social Sciences Teams. She has an LLB (Hons) from the National University of Singapore and an MSc (Library Science) from Nanyang Technological University.

Siu Chen can be reached at llblsc@nus.edu.sg


Sukanya NAIDU is an Associate University Librarian at NUS Libraries. Her research interests include evidence-based practice and curriculum-integrated library programs.

Sukanya can be reached at mlbrsn@nus.edu.sg.


TOH Kim Kee is a research librarian at NUS Libraries. She conducts user education programmes and training to the NUS Health Sciences community.

Kim Kee can be reached at kim_kee_toh@nus.edu.sg.


  1. The creators of the MOOC “The Art and Science of Searching in Systematic Reviews” comprise the team from NUS Libraries⸻Sukanya Naidu, Toh Kim Kee, Annelissa Chin, Stephanie Ng Yen Ping, Wong Suei Nee and Lim Siu Chen⸻in collaboration with colleagues from the NUS Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT), and with help from Alan Soong from CDTL and Magdeline Ng Tao Tao from NUS Libraries.


NUS Libraries (n.d.). Library guide on copyright for MOOCs. https://libguides.nus.edu.sg/c.php?g=936116&p=6769217

Shah, D. (2020, November 30). By the numbers – MOOCs in 2020. The Report by Class Central. https://www.classcentral.com/report/mooc-stats-2020/

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