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Engagement and Motivation in MOOCs


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In this presentation I look at the issues of engagement and motivation in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I outline the development of MOOCs and some of the features that make them distinct from traditional courses. Then I look at some of the literature regarding online student engagement, and apply that with respect to MOOCs. I find that many traditional measures - such as counting attendance or page views - do not account for the sort of engagement we'd like to see, and is demonstrated for example in ds106. In addition, provision of the ability to determine one's own educational path or even to satisfy one's other motivations, may be necessary, but are not sufficient, to support motivation in MOOCs. In the end I consider the example of how motivation is created in gaming environments, and wonder whether MOOCs need challenges and the possibility of failure in order to stimulate student engagement. Please note that the video is a short 5-minute promo, and is not the same as the audio or slides. Also useful is a set of annotated resources consulted prior to the talk. Please see for audio, video and additional resources.

Published in: Education, Technology

Engagement and Motivation in MOOCs

  1. 1. Engagement andMotivation in MOOCsStephen DownesNovember 22, 2011
  2. 2. This is a discussion of issues, not apresentation of results.Photo:
  3. 3. A long time ago, I developed and worked withan LMS. Then I built some onlinecommunities. Engagement was easy.
  4. 4. More recently, I’ve worked with newsletters,social networks, and distributed networks.Engagement was assumed.
  5. 5. Even more recently, I’ve been working onMOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses.These create new expectations.
  6. 6. These aren’t typical courses – they are basedon a connectivist pedagogy of learningthrough linkages and conversation
  7. 7. Learning isn’t a matter of acquiring facts, butrather the development of connectionsthrough engagement and interaction.
  8. 8. The structure of the course isn’t like a book ora narrative, but rather like a web.
  9. 9. The idea is to learn through practice andreflection, becoming a knowing person bydoing – the way we know people do learn.
  10. 10. • We are currently offering a 30 week monster course called #Change11 with 2200 students
  11. 11. And we’re seeing the same sort of patternwe’ve seen in other connectivist courses.
  12. 12. The decline can be dramatic.
  13. 13. The problem may well be a lack ofengagement – the presumption isengagement is related to outcomes
  14. 14. So, how do we raise engagement in a MOOC?
  15. 15. Engagement can be a “a broad construct”fostering active and collaborative learning....Vicki Trowler – Engagement Literature Review
  16. 16. Online engagement can be life-changing
  17. 17. What is it though? Most of the research... hasconcentrated on the simple measure ofattendance (Douglas & Alemanne, 2007).
  18. 18. But, on-campus engagement may be verydifferent from online engagementNSSE Engagement Report
  19. 19. In the online world, this translates intocounting page hits or time on the LMS
  20. 20. We can force attendance by measuringattendance, but we want something deeper
  21. 21. What about engagement as relevance – theidea that people choose their learning?
  22. 22. But the presumption of a MOOC is thatparticipants have self-selected, that theyrealready interested and motivated.
  23. 23. Engagement as the fostering of activities
  24. 24. Perhaps we can take lessons in engagementfrom games and game design?
  25. 25. But where is the challenge in a MOOC? Whereis the possibility of failure?