Conceptualizing Interaction & Learning in MOOCs
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Conceptualizing Interaction & Learning in MOOCs



While there has been a lot of attention about the potential for MOOCs to transform higher education, far less empirical research has been conducted that explores the experiences and behaviours of ...

While there has been a lot of attention about the potential for MOOCs to transform higher education, far less empirical research has been conducted that explores the experiences and behaviours of learners in these online settings. A particular strength of MOOCs is the potential for thousands of learners to come together to learn. Understanding who interacts, how they interact, and why is an important part of understanding how learning may occur. This presentation aims to highlight 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 through the in-depth mixed method analysis of one case study MOOC. The findings discussed are those emerging from an ongoing study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. See for more details.



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Conceptualizing Interaction & Learning in MOOCs Conceptualizing Interaction & Learning in MOOCs Presentation Transcript

  • Conceptualizing Interaction & Learning in MOOCs Rebecca Eynon, Nabeel Gillani, Isis Hjorth February 20, 2014
  • Overall goal  Focus on interaction  Communication via discussion forums 1. The different ways and reasons that people interact with one another in MOOCs 2. How these interaction profiles are related to learner characteristics and course outcomes
  • Motivations  Exploring the realities of participating in a MOOC  Methodological challenges and possibilities  Widening participation
  • Research approach   Case study of one MOOC from Coursera with strong emphasis on encouraging interactions between learners Mixed methodology   Visualisation of posts and views, social network analysis, in-depth interviews, pre and post surveys, qualitative observations and content analysis Moving between the quant and qual methods
  • The course    6 week course, March to May 2013 4-6 hours per week Assignments  Required: Weekly quizzes, final strategic analysis assignment (evaluated via peer-assessment)  Optional: Discuss business cases in the discussion forums  Multiple sub-forums  Final project, cases, lectures, readings, study groups, questions for professor, technical feedback, course material feedback
  • Participation  Over 90,000 registered  49,682 used the lecture videos at least once  20,082 submitted at least one quiz  4,445 posted at least once in discussion forums  2,208 received >= 70% 6
  • Forum & course participation: location Continent % Course participants % Forum participants North America 32% 32% South America 7% 10% Europe 28% 25% Asia 26% 24% Africa 5% 6% Oceania 2% 2%
  • Forum & course participation: education Highest attainment % Course participants % Forum participants Some high school 1% 1% Completed high school 3% 4% Some college 10% 11% Bachelors 43% 42% Masters 40% 39% Doctorate 3% 4% N=7337
  • No. of posts Study Groups Days since course began Cases
  • Exploring the network: what counts?  Two questions:  What do we consider as a "tie" between two learners?  Do we trust the observed ties as meaningful?  Let's assume the observed network is a noise-corrupted version of the true underlying network (Psorakis et al. 2011)  Draw N samples of possible networks, based on thread coparticipation  Determine the significance of a particular tie in the observed learnerto-learner network based on the sampled ones  This formulation helps us disregard ties that we attribute to chance (e.g., one-off interactions in a sea of other interactions)
  • Significant networks Sub-forum (# nodes) # Edges in full network # Edges in significant network % Decline Lectures (617) 12,644 3,988 68% Readings (1,108) 35,728 11,259 68% Cases (1,114) 102,171 57,490 44% Final Projects (1,019) 23,244 12,557 46% Study Groups (1,359) 41,819 11,609 72% Qtns for Prof(284) 2,758 896 68% Course Material Feedback (252) 2,752 729 74% Tech Feedback (231) 3,087 339 89%
  • Study groups sub-forum Study Groups - Full Study Groups - Significant
  • Sub-forums are generally “vulnerable”, and some are more vulnerable than others
  • Forum & course participation: score Final Score % Course participants % Forum participants < 50% 97% 72% 50% <= score < 60% 0.1% 1% 60% <= score < 70% 0.1% 1% 70% <= score < 80% 0.14% 2% 80% <= score < 90% 0.21% 3% 90% <= score 2.2% 21%
  • Demographics of high score earners  Geography of those receiving >= 90% final score Europeans – 35%  North Americans – 26%  Asians – 24%   Education   45% of forum users that received a 90% had at least a Master’s degree High performers active in the discussion forums are very welleducated and from the Western world
  • So….  Forums mostly harbour crowds, not communities, of learners characterized by weak ties  Participation in the forums was dominated by people who received very high or very low final marks  Well-educated people from the western world tend to complete MOOCs and do well in them  But who are the people that participate?
  • Qualitative evidence  How do people experience learning in a crowd?  What motivates them to learn in a MOOC?  What is success for them? In-depth, semi-structured interviews N=10 Qualitative analysis of forum posts, N=5000+
  • Emerging patterns of MOOC learner types Presentation title, edit in header and footer (view menu) 2/21/2014 Page 18
  • MOOC learner type 1 [Problem solving]  Just in time learning MOOC engagement  Knowledge to assist specific decision-making processes  Key barriers: Time management/other work obligations   Crowd of no significance for learning   Learning as an individual pursuit Example: Carney, early 50s, Ireland, Masters’ degree  “Here at our site in Ireland, we were trying to come up with a new idea for how we position ourselves in the market, [...] and our group president came from a strategy background, so I thought [...] we’d be best to talk in his language and concepts he’s used to, so that at least he’d see, that you know, we’re on the same track. So in order to give myself really just an introduction to the topic, strategy, that’s how I ended up [at the FBS course].”
  • MOOC learner type 2 [Professional profiling]  Just in case learning MOOC engagement  Skill development for future employment  Key barriers: Time management/other work obligations   Crowd of limited relevance for learning;   May occasionally serve as information source Example: Julia, late 20s, England, masters’ degree “I’ve been in my job for 2 years, and thinking about moving – as to what my skill gaps are […].I think the ones [courses] I’m taking more seriously, are the ones that push me a bit more towards my career goals.”  There’ll be, you know, forum pages of ‘how do I do this’, ‘where do I get that’, you know…if they just read the intro, that’d, to be completely honest, I don’t bother answering anything like that, because I think that’s, you know..[…]. I’m using it [courses] quite selfishly, I suppose.” 
  • MOOC learner type 3 [Formal accreditation]  Life-long learning MOOC engagement  Extension of traditional educational experiences  Key barriers: appropriate collaborative tools, study group logistics   Crowd of high importance for learning   Serve as pool for knowledge co-construction and networking (on- and offline) Example: Lucas, mid-20s, Master’s degree, Spain  “I use the forum to connect with other students and set up a group or tools in other platforms. […] MOOCs that imply interaction with other students, are much more interesting […] this interaction gives a boost to your motivation.”  “The philosophy here is to be a constant learner. […] For me this is about constant learning, and I actually plan to do courses throughout my life.”
  • MOOC learner type 4 [Learning for learning’s sake]  Access to education MOOC engagement  Global outreach and connectivity  Key barriers: Internet access/speed; learning skills/culture   Crowd crucial for learning   Crowd integrated part of MOOC learning experience; source of knowledge. Example: Emengo, early 40s, Bachelors’ degree, Nigeria    “I like the forums, you learn a lot. And it encourages you to learn a lot, people teach you – without necessarily telling you what the solution is.” “The world is getting smaller, so being a king in a small pond is no longer enough […] because very soon, the world will be coming into the pond. […] and if I interact with these people across-boarder, then my knowledge also somehow has to be across-boarder.”
  • Final thoughts & next steps  On widening participation  Recognition of diverse learner needs, motivations and digital inequalities need to be considered to support widening participation  Data from qual and quant approaches is key  Focus on bringing all the data sources together to develop and refine learner typology  Development of a set of quantitative indicators to be used in future research and practice
  • Acknowledgements  Project team  Chris Davies, Bhaveet Radia, Taha Yasseri  Project site   Funder  MOOC Research Initiative