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The research into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is an ever-widening sky. Although we have learned much about what happens inside such courses less is known about the echoes that spread outside the course walls. Questions remain as to what stories are being told, and by whom, about MOOCs through social media. A gap in the literature exists around what people are saying about MOOCs in Twitter for example. This is an important topic to address because any comprehensive evaluation of the impact of MOOCs should incorporate an evidence base inclusive of informal networks such as social media that draws on the testimony of all MOOC stakeholders including the learners, teachers, researchers, institutions and platform providers.
In an attempt to address this gap in the literature the National Institute for Digital Learning in Dublin City University, in collaboration with the Centre for Big Data in Education at Beijing Normal University are conducting a project to deconstruct the MOOC story through a comparative analysis of social media. This project builds upon research such as the recent study of users of the Sina Weibo platform, a popular Chinese microblogging website, which analyzed representations of MOOCs (Zhang et.al., 2015). This latest project aims to investigate how the MOOC story has been told in social media from a large twitter dataset. In conjunction with the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce at DCU we have extracted a large dataset from Twitter and interrogated it using several Big Data analytical techniques including time series, sentiment and content analysis. This paper will provide an overview of our findings to date and contextualize them with reference to some of the big research issues regarding MOOCs. In this way we aim to contribute a critical analysis to the ongoing debate over grand MOOC narratives including their promise to reconstitute the future of higher education.
Zhang, J., Perris, K., Zheng, Q. & Chen, L (2015) The MOOC Movement in China: Examining the Time Series of Microblogging. In The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 16,5 (2015).