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Conceptualising interaction and learning in MOOCs

Conceptualising interaction and learning in MOOCs


There are high hopes for MOOCs to transform education. Yet the empirical research that could help us to properly understand the educational value of MOOCs is in its infancy. As MOOCs become ever more popular, it is important to now move beyond the hype to examine the learning potential of such innovations and to locate this understanding by building on existing theoretical and methodological insights developed from previous learning and technology research. Early literature on MOOCs has investigated the nature of learner interactions with their course environments. However, to date we know very little about the nature of interactions between learners or how these individuals exchange information with one another.

Thus, through the in-depth mixed method analysis of two MOOCs that emphasize collaborative problem-solving efforts this project aims to contribute to this field through the development of a series of learner profiles that reflect the different ways in which people communicate and interact with one another in MOOCs, and how these interactions are related to learner characteristics, experiences and outcomes. These profiles will be developed based on digital trace and clickstream data, qualitative observations, pre and post surveys and qualitative interviews. Specifically the key questions are:

  1. What is the nature of the communication networks within MOOCs?
  2. How does information “cascade” within these networks?
  3. Can we distinguish coherent profiles of learners’ interactions within a MOOC?
  4. How do these interaction profiles relate to learner characteristics?
  5. What is the relationship between these interaction profiles and learners’ performance and experiences of learning within a MOOC?

Ultimately, the overarching goal is to propose a typology that describes the nature of learner interactions in MOOCs that develops our understanding of how learning takes place in such settings both theoretically and practically.

The Oxford Internet Institute is a successful applicant of a competitive grant competition run by Athabasca University (Principal Investigator: George Siemens). This project, the MOOC Research Initiative, will advance understanding of the role of MOOCs in the education sector and how emerging models of learning will influence traditional education. The MOOC Research Initiative is a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Key Information

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Project dates:
    October 2013 - January 2015

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