Archive for category Chapters

MOOCs and Open Education around the World

The book MOOCS and Open Education Around the World, to which I contributed a chapter, has been very successful. Most recently, it won a DDL Distance Education Book Award. This award is presented in recognition of a print or digital book published within the last three years that describes important theoretical or practical aspects of distance education that can help others involved in distance education or those researching an important aspect of distance education. The primary focus of the book must be directly related to distance education.


AECT Division of Distance Learning (DDL) Distance Education Book Award. 2016 – First Place. MOOCs and Open Education around the World, Editors: Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi M. Lee, Thomas C. Reeves and Thomas H. Reynolds. NY: Routledge. Presented at the 2016 Conference of the Association for Educational Technology and Communications, Las Vegas.


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MOOCs 2030: A Future for Massive Online Learning

Book coverWhat lies in the future for MOOCs? This chapter, which I wrote with Mike Sharples and Russell Beale, looks ahead 15 years, to a time when MOOCs have left the hype cycle behind and are being used by millions of people worldwide as a part of their learning journey. The book as a whole provides a comprehensive overview of the past, present and future of massive open online courses around the world


This chapter looks ahead to the year 2030 and considers the ways in which current visions of massive open online courses may develop into realities. In order to do this, it considers the changes in pedagogy, technology, and the wider environment that will be necessary in order for them to flourish. The chapter argues that, by 2030, the systems that develop from MOOCs will be meeting the needs of societies by educating millions of digital citizens worldwide. These systems will have opened up access to education and be enabling people from all over the world to enjoy the benefits of learning at scale. In order for this to happen, MOOC providers, policy makers, and educators will all need to proceed with this vision in mind. In effect, if MOOCs are to make a difference and truly open up education while enhancing learning, the pedagogies in place by 2030 must take into account entirely new groups of learners as well as vastly new roles that will emerge for educators. Such pedagogical approaches must also utilize innovative approaches to the design of that learning, whether it be MOOCs or some other form of learning delivery at scale.

Citation: Ferguson, Rebecca, Sharples, Mike, & Beale, Russell. (2015). MOOCs 2030: A Future for Massive Online Learning In C. J. Bonk, M. Miyoung Lee, T. C. Reeves & T. H. Reynolds (Eds.), MOOCs and Open Education Around the World. Routledge



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The strength of cohesive ties

Understnading Learning in Virtual Worlds book coverI have a new, co-authored, book chapter out, which draws on data from the Schome Park Programme. This is the published version of a paper that Julia Gillen and I presented at the Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds (ReLIVE) conference in 2011.

It was an interesting chapter to write, because it draws on the same dataset as another chapter by the four of us  – Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island – but takes a different approach, focusing on community as much as on language.

Ferguson, R., Gillen, J., Peachey, A., & Twining, P. (2013). The strength of cohesive ties: discursive construction of an online learning community. In M. Childs, & A. Peachey (Eds.), Understanding Learning in Virtual Worlds (pp. 83-100). London, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht: Springer.


Learning takes place in a social context, shaping and shaped by discourses. In online projects such as the Schome Park Programme, these discourses are material semiotic practices that make use of writing and other manifestations of digital literacies. Discourses include traceable patterns with linguistic features of distinctive forms and functions. Employing a sociocultural perspective of discourse as mediated interaction, we identify use of register and cohesive ties as salient to the practices of learning communities. The study reported here focuses on two groups of teenagers, one a formal learning community based in the USA, the other a larger, online, informal learning community based in the UK. The groups were originally only weakly tied within a network, but aimed to work together within the virtual world environment, despite some different aims. Working with McMillan’s concept of community as characterised by spirit, authority, trade and art, we illustrate how misalignments in register and problems with cohesive ties can be associated with difficulties in the cooperative learning enterprise and we also make recommendations for future practice.

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Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island

Book coverI have a new co-authored chapter out, Gillen, J., Ferguson, R., Peachey, A., & Twining, P. (2012). Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island. In G. Merchant, J. Gillen, J. Marsh, & J. Davies (Eds.), Virtual Literacies: Interactive Spaces for Children and Young People: Routledge Research in Education.

The chapter doesn’t have an abstract so, instead, I shall quote a paragraph from the conclusion:

…the debate would be of very limited interest if it merely illustrated the potential affordances of one medium rather than another. Of more significance in the end is the extent to which it clarifies or at least raises significant questions about creating the foundations for the kind of collaborative discussions that are founded in a trusting community, supportive of individuals shaping learning identities in a creative environment (Peachey, 2010). Rethinking educational practice to include more authentic literary engagements, asynchronous debates that are genuinely meaningful to participants, speak to their concerns, and relate to genuine opportunities for purposeful activity and indeed creativity is surely a worthwhile exercise (Barton, 2007; Ferguson, 2011). How then might such ideas promote reshaping the aims of learning environments, even ultimately institutions of education?

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Towards a social learning space for open educational resources (chapter)

Book cover

In November 2010, Simon Buckingham Shum travelled to Barcelona to present our jointly authored paper at OpenED2010. That presentation evolved into a chapter for Collaborative Learning 2.0: Open Educational Resources, ‘a collection of the latest research, trends, future development and case studies within the field’.

Ferguson, R. & Buckingham Shum, S. (2012), Towards a social learning space for open educational resources. In: Okada, A., Connolly, T. & Scott, P. (eds.) Collaborative Learning 2.0: Open Educational Resources. IGI.


This chapter examines the meaning of “open” in terms of tools, resources, and education, and goes on to explore the association between open approaches to education and the development of online social learning. It considers why this form of learning is emerging so strongly at this point, what its underlying principles are, and how it can be defined. Openness is identified as one of the motivating rationales for a social media space tuned for learning, called SocialLearn, which is currently being trialed at The Open University in the UK. SocialLearn has been designed to support online social learning by helping users to clarify their intention, ground their learning and engage in learning conversations. The emerging design concept and implementation are described here, with a focus on what personalization means in this context, and on how learning analytics could be used to provide different types of recommendation that support learning.

A review of this book was published in Australian Library Journal (2013) 62,2, pp 160-161. Extract:
“Collaborative learning 2.0: open educational resources is a useful resource for anyone wishing to explore the potential of OER and to gain insight into recent developments and experiences.”

A review of this book was published in Online Information Review (2013) 37, 4, p658. Extract:

“Overall, this collection does not offer any definitive answers but does deliver a wide-ranging review of the ideas and activities currently driving OER and how they are changing the way educators are thinking about teaching and learning.”


Breaking down the barriers

Ferguson, Rebecca and Sheehy, Kieron (2010). Breaking down the barriers. In: Sheehy, Kieron; Ferguson, Rebecca and Clough, Gill eds. Virtual Worlds: Controversies at the Frontier of Education. Education in a Competitive and Globalizing World. Hauppauge, N.Y: Nova Science Publishers.

This chapter focuses on the views of teenaged learners – a perspective that should not be controversial at all, and yet it is. Millions of young people engage in social and play activities within virtual worlds every day. We have, for the first time in history, a large population of learners who are well versed in immersive technologies and who choose to use them. As educators seek to take advantage of the affordances and popularity of virtual spaces, it is interesting to note the relative absence of voices of the learners reflecting on how these environments could be used and how they would like to see these educational spaces developed. This research focuses on the views expressed in the postings and comments of young people involved in a virtual world education project.  It considers the insights that these voices offer educationalists and, in particular, the implications that arise for creating future educational environments.



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Virtual worlds are authentic sites for learning

Clough, Gill and Ferguson, Rebecca (2010). Virtual worlds are authentic sites for learning. In: Sheehy, Kieron; Ferguson, Rebecca and Clough, Gill eds. Virtual Worlds: Controversies at the Frontier of Education. Education in a Competitive and Globalizing World. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers.

This chapter considers how ‘meaningful learning’ can be understood in the context of knowledge-age skills. Through a study conducted in Second Life™, it investigates whether terms such as ‘authentic’, ‘active’ and ‘collaborative’ can be applied to activities undertaken in virtual worlds. It examines the knowledge-age skills employed in virtual worlds, relating these skills to the characteristics of the learning environment. Finally, it asks whether the distinction between meaningful and non-meaningful learning environments is more important for the development of knowledge-age skills than the distinction between formal and informal situations or between staff-run and student-run situations.


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