Archive for category FutureLearn

Educators’ perspectives on MOOCs

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 11.46.07We have just published an internal report for The Open University. It covers ‘Staff Perspectives on the Value of Involvement with FutureLearn MOOCs’. The report – authored by Tom Coughlan, Thea Herodotou, Alice Peasgood and myself  – continues our series of reports on different aspects of engagement and research with MOOCs.

We carried out interviews with educators, production staff and facilitators who work on both MOOCs and Open University courses. Analysis of these data identified six forms of value that these MOOCs offer to the university.

  1. Innovating course production
  2. Staff development
  3. Visibility and engagement
  4. Improved learning journeys
  5. Research and evaluation
  6. Income generation

In each case, the report identifies both benefits and challenges.

Open University staff can access the full report.

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Barcelona: FutureLearn Academic Network

Tweet about the eventOn 27 January, I travelled to Pompeu Fabra university in Barcelona for a meeting of the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) on The Educator Experience. This was the first FLAN meeting to take place outside the UK and it was held at UPF’s Poblenou Campus. The event was organised by CLIK (Center for Learning, Innovation and Knowledge) and the members of the Educational Technologies section within the Interactive Technologies Research Group of UPF.

During the meeting, FutureLearn partners reflected on the impact and research possibilities of MOOC in the field of education. Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, gave the keynote speech, describing Edinburgh’s developing MOOC strategy, including the production of 64 online master’s courses.

I talked about our recent report MOOCs; What the Research of FutureLearn’s UK Partners Tells Us

If you have access to the FutureLearn Partners’ blog, a video of the meeting and summary notes of the sessions are available.

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MOOCs: What the UK research tells us

report coverOur latest quality enhancement report, MOOCs; What the Research of FutureLearn’s UK Partners Tells Us came out in late January 2017. The rport was co-authored with Tim Coughlan, Christothea Herodotou and Eileen Scanlon. It follows an earlier report on what MOOC research from The Open University tells us.

The report provides brief summaries of, and links to, all accessible publications stored in the repositories of  FutureLearn’s UK academic partners that deal with research on MOOCs. Where these publications made recommendations that could be taken up, these recommendations are highlighted within the report. Full references for all studies are provided in the bibliography.

Studies are divided thematically, and the report contains sections on MOOCs as a field, pedagogy and teaching, accessibility, retention, motivation and engagement, assessment and accreditation, study skills, MOOCs around the world, and sustainability.

The report contains 59 recommendations that have emerged from the publications and each of these is linked to the research study that generated it.

MOOC priority areas

1. Develop a strategic approach to learning at scale.

2. Develop appropriate pedagogy for learning at scale.

3. Identify and share effective learning designs.

4. Support discussion more effectively.

5. Clarify learner expectations.

6. Develop educator teams.

7. Widen access.

8. Develop new approaches to assessment and accreditation.

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Developing a strategic approach to MOOCs

german-refOur introductory article for the JIME special issue on MOOCs focused on the research work carried out in the area by UK universities who are FutureLearn partners.

‘Developing a strategic approach to MOOCs’ uses the work carried out at these universities to identify nine priority areas for MOOC research and how these can be developed in the future:

  1. Develop a strategic approach to MOOCs.
  2. Expand the benefits of teaching and learning in MOOCs.
  3. Offer well-designed assessment and accreditation.
  4. Widen participation and extend access.
  5. Develop and make effective use of appropriate pedagogies.
  6. Support the development of educators.
  7. Make effective use of learning design.
  8. Develop methods of quality assurance.
  9. Address issues related to privacy and ethics.

Ferguson, Rebecca; Scanlon, Eileen and Harris, Lisa (2016). Developing a strategic approach to MOOCs. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2016(1), article no. 21.

Abstract

During the last eight years, interest in massive open online courses (MOOCs) has grown fast and continuously worldwide. Universities that had never engaged with open or online learning have begun to run courses in these new environments. Millions of learners have joined these courses, many of them new to learning at this level. Amid all this learning and teaching activity, researchers have been busy investigating different aspects of this new phenomenon. In this contribution we look at one substantial body of work, publications on MOOCs that were produced at the 29 UK universities connected to the FutureLearn MOOC platform. Bringing these papers together, and considering them as a body of related work, reveals a set of nine priority areas for MOOC research and development. We suggest that these priority areas could be used to develop a strategic approach to learning at scale. We also show how the papers in this special issue align with these priority areas, forming a basis for future work.

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MOOCs: what the research tells us

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-15-27-21MOOCs: What the Open University research tells us recommends priority areas for activity in relation to massive open online courses (MOOCs). It does this by bringing together all The Open University’s published research work in this area from the launch of the first MOOC in 2008 until February 2016.

The report provides brief summaries of, and links to, all publications stored in the university’s Open Research Online (ORO) repository that use the word ‘MOOC’ in their title or abstract. Full references for all studies are provided in the bibliography.

Studies are divided thematically, and the report contains sections on the pedagogy of MOOCs, MOOCs and open education, MOOC retention and motivation, working together in MOOCs, MOOC assessment, accessibility, privacy and ethics, quality and other areas of MOOC research.

The report identifies ten priority areas for future work:

  1. Influence the direction of open education globally 
  2. Develop and accredit learning journeys 
  3. Extend the relationship between learners and the university
  4. Make effective use of learning design
  5. Make use of effective distance learning pedagogies
  6. Widen participation
  7. Offer well-designed assessment 
  8. Pay attention to quality assurance 
  9. Pay attention to privacy and ethics
  10. Expand the benefits of learning from MOOCs

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Patterns of engagement across time in MOOCs

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 10.23.26New paper out in the Journal of Learning Analytics Research, building on our previous papers dealing with how learners engage with MOOCs.

Abstract

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are being used across the world to provide millions of learners with access to education. Many who begin these courses complete them successfully, or to their own satisfaction, but the high numbers who do not finish remain a subject of concern. In 2013, a team from Stanford University analysed engagement patterns on three MOOCs run on the Coursera platform. They found four distinct patterns of engagement that emerged from MOOCs based on videos and assessments. Subsequent studies on the FutureLearn platform, which is underpinned by social-constructivist pedagogy, indicate that patterns of engagement in these massive learning environments are influenced by decisions about pedagogy and learning design. This paper reports on two of these studies of learner engagement with FutureLearn courses. Study One first tries, not wholly successfully, to replicate the findings of the Coursera study in a new context. It then uses the same methodological approach to identify patterns of learner engagement on the FutureLearn platform, and indicates how these patterns are influenced by pedagogy and elements of learning design. Study Two investigates whether these patterns of engagement are stable on subsequent presentations of the same courses. Two patterns are found consistently in this and other work: samplers who visit briefly, and completers who fully engage with the course. The paper concludes by exploring the implications for both research and practice.

Ferguson, Rebecca, & Clow, Doug. (2016). Consistent commitment: patterns of engagement across time in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Journal of Learning Analytics, 2(3), 63-88.

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The ethics of MOOC research

Tweet from FLANI spent 2 December at a FutureLearn Academic Network meeting at the University of Southampton.

The morning was taken up with short pecha kucha sessions on MOOC research, and the afternoon included three talks on the ethics of MOOCs, from Mike Sharples (FutureLearn and The open University), Jocelyn Wishart (University of Bristol) and me. Although we hadn’t coordinated our talks in advance, we managed to focus on different areas. Mike talked about the current FutureLearn approach, Jocelyn drew parallels with the ethics of mobile learning, and I drew on the work on learning analytics that is being carried out by the community (most notably by Sharon Slade and Paul Prinsloo).

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