Archive for category MOOCs

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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Researching MOOCs: JIME special issue

I was one of the editors of a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JIME) on Researching MOOCs. The special issue draws on the work of the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN), which is made up of academics st universities that are FutureLearn partners.

Other editors were Eileen Scanlon (The Open University) and Lisa Harris (University of Southampton).

The special issue contains five papers.

Contents page

 

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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.

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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: 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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Quality assurance of MOOCs: expert workshop

Workshop participantsNext stop after the LAK conference was Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. There I took part in an expert workshop from 2-3 May 2016, organised by the Commonwealth of Learning, developing guidelines for the quality assurance and accreditation of massive open online courses.

The workshop was one of the elements in a longer-term study that resulted in the publication of  Quality in MOOCs; Surveying the Terrain, by Nina Hood and Allison Littlejohn in June 2016.

Abstract

The purpose of this review is to identify quality measures and to highlight some of the tensions surrounding notions of quality, as well as the need for new ways of thinking about and approaching quality in MOOCs. It draws on the literature on both MOOCs and quality in education more generally in order to provide a framework for thinking about quality and the different variables and questions that must be considered when conceptualising quality in MOOCs. The review adopts a relativist approach, positioning quality as a measure for a specific purpose. The review draws upon Biggs’s (1993) 3P model to explore notions and dimensions of quality in relation to MOOCs — presage, process and product variables — which correspond to an input–environment–output model. The review brings together literature examining how quality should be interpreted and assessed in MOOCs at a more general and theoretical level, as well as empirical research studies that explore how these ideas about quality can be operationalised, including the measures and instruments that can be employed. What emerges from the literature are the complexities involved  in interpreting and measuring quality in MOOCs and the importance of both context and perspective to discussions of quality.

Workshop participants

Australia: Adam Brimo

Canada: Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, Sanjaya Mishra

India: Mangala Sunder Krishnan, TV Prabhakar, K Rama

Japan: Paul Kawachi

Malaysia: Safiah binti Md. Yusof, Mohamed Amin Embi, Nurbiha A Shukor, Rozhan M Idrus, Nurkhamimi Bin Zainuddin, John Arul Phillips

New Zealand: Nina Hood

UK: Allison Littlejohn, Rebecca Ferguson, Nigel Smith

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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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