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Wednesday, June 18 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
PSD.16 – Learning to Learn in a MOOC

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Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are a phenomenon that has been alternately constructed as both threat and saviour for higher education.  Some see them as the demise of the traditional university, others as an exciting new learning experience that will extend education to those underserved by traditional institutions.  Whether promise or peril, MOOCs are incredibly popular, with millions of participants engaged in thousands of courses.  Most administrators, researchers, and academics involved in higher education agree it is likely that MOOCs will impact current practices and have the ability to revolutionise learning experiences.

 It is imperative, therefore, that we have research of the highest quality to guide our understandings of, and responses to, the MOOC phenomenon.  Yet most research conducted so far has been limited both in scope and methodology.  There is a preponderance of research looking at drop out rates, characteristics of learners, and patterns of learners.  Most of these studies rely on learning analytics and quantitative data, often automatically logged by MOOC platforms, in an attempt to numerically capture the learner experience.  While such studies are valuable in establishing generalities, they are limited in their ability to provide deeper understandings of the actual experience of participants.  What is missing is research that focuses on the learner as they attempt to learn through this novel technology.

This session reports on the early stages of a research project that explores how participants learn to learn in a MOOC, focusing on the experience of learners as they navigate through the complex information environment found in MOOCs.  Learning in networked online environments requires different skills than are used in a traditional classroom, and previous research has identified some of the struggles learners experience: confusion over the roles of students and teachers, a lack of ability to self-regulate their learning, disorientation from working across multiple platforms, and the need for a complex set of digital and social literacies unique to the online environment.  This study attempts to understand how learners negotiate these struggles while also engaging with the content of the course.  Drawing on concepts of self-determined learning, sense-making, and networked learning, and combining data from surveys, learning analytics, and a virtual ethnographic approach, this research follows the paths learners take through a MOOC.  By focusing on the experience of participants, we hope to identify the critical literacies, threshold concepts, and types of support that can best help learners in MOOCs successfully attain their goals.  As well as providing information, this session will encourage discussion around the complexities of leaning in such massive, information rich, networked environments, with the goal of generating insights that will help educators support students in navigating and succeeding in these new learning environments.


Wednesday June 18, 2014 11:00am - 12:30pm
A241/A242 Duncan McArthur Hall

Attendees (11)