Towards conceptualising interaction and learning in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)


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Eynon R and Gilliani N (2013) Towards conceptualising interaction and learning in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOC Research Initiative, December 2013, Dallas, USA.

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  • Lucas is not a fan of the forums, he does not think they are fit for purpose. The interaction patterns in the forum are not ideal, and people do not really engage in any meaning full dialogue.
    As an alternative, Lucas uses the forums to recruit people to online study groups, either on Facebook, to virtual study groups, or engage with IM or email. In the FBS course, he posted more than 50 comments in the forum promoting FB groups and a virtual study groups; after the first 1-2 weeks, he didn’t return to the forums again.
    His main motivations are to learn, to enhance his CV and to communicate his profile and interests to future employees:
    Beyond motivation for the course
    “I was quite active in the group, and interacted with about 8 other members outside of the [context of] the [FBS] FB group. I added them on Facebook, and I chatted with them about this course and about other courses. Maybe with about 5 of those, I kept some contact during the course, with 2 or 3, I keep contact still. Particularly, with one other girl who lives here in Spain. She was also interested in, as I am, in finance. From time to time, we talk about upcoming courses on courser, and we took one or two other courses together. These other courses didn’t need so much interaction across participants, so maybe we talked a little bit about how we were going with the course; if we were on time or not, how we were doing on the homework. So, not so much interaction about the topic, but about how we were doing and maybe when we had a doubt about something, we would talk about that.”
    In another Coursera course, Mathematical Thinking, the lecturer encouraged the use of an external virtual study group platform. Lucas made use of this platform, and though it was particularly well suited for mathematically related courses that have group assignments. He explains how it works:
    “You can actually sit at a virtual table, and when you do so, you get a particular chat, and also, what you see at the table is paper on which anyone can write on, and anyone can see. And you can write with your keyboard and also with your mouse. […]. And within the table, you could share pdf files. It is a very complete platform for this course. […] It was, in a way, as if I was sitting with someone else and I was writing the paper, and point there [on the virtual paper]–it was pretty cool. ”
    Lucas particularly liked the synchronous interaction, and the affordances of the platform. Also, it was very convenient, because it required less planning as there were always people around:
    “In the MT group [on virtual study room] it was really nice, because there were always around 20 people online, and you would just sit down at a table and say: hey, I’m willing to discuss this assignment, and maybe 4-5 people would join. It was real-time in the sense that you didn’t need to plan for this meeting, you just go there and there were people there willing to discuss the assignment.”
    “You try for the first week, week and a half, to promote the group, to get people there…and then you just get off the forum, and just interact with other platforms. At least in my case.”
    “What I have liked most is when I have shared the course with a friend, which I actually met at the FBS, and then we kept talking. When we share courses, even if the interaction wasn’t really needed, we could talk a bit: “hey, I did’t really understand this video or this topic”, and then have some interaction in that aspect. I think that really gives the MOOC experience a boost.”
    Not really, because I haven’t been able to find the time. I’ve actually seen a lot of discussion forum…I’ve seen that people kind of find likeminded people from the same location. For example, if I’m in New Delhi, and I know there are 30 odd people who are taking the course from New Delhi […] they meet once a month to discuss what they’re experiencing, to discuss what their thinkings are. But personally I haven’t really haven’t the opportunity to do that, because of lack of time.” (Anandi)
  • Towards conceptualising interaction and learning in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

    1. 1. Conceptualizing Interaction & Learning in MOOCs Rebecca Eynon & Nabeel Gillani January 13, 2014
    2. 2. Overall goal  Focus on interaction  Communication via discussion forums 1. The development of profiles that reflect 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
    3. 3. Research approach  Case study of one MOOC from Coursera with strong emphasis on encouraging interactions between learners  Use data from this MOOC to develop typology, then use data from future versions of the MOOC  Mixed methodology Visualisation of posts and views, social network analysis, in-depth interviews, pre and post surveys and qualitative observations  Moving between the quant and qual methods to keep refining the model 
    4. 4. Towards an understanding of interaction  Trends in interaction patterns   Who? When? What? Exploring the network What “counts” as interaction?  Crowds or communities?   Towards a typology  Next steps
    5. 5. 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
    6. 6. 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
    7. 7. 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%
    8. 8. 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
    9. 9. 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%
    10. 10. Patterns of interaction  A framework for forum analysis  Analyse communication trends and interactions according to subforums – justified by low participation overlaps between sub-forums  Forum activity is “bursty”, with most activity occurring earlier in the course  Different sub-forums encourage different patterns of information access and contribution
    11. 11. Study Groups Days since course began Readings
    12. 12. Cases Final Projects
    13. 13. Different sub-forums encourage different patterns of information access and contribution
    14. 14. 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) )
    15. 15. 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%
    16. 16. Study groups sub-forum Study Groups - Full Study Groups - Significant
    17. 17. Crowds versus communities?  Forums mostly harbour crowds, not communities, of learners characterized by weak ties  How do people experience the forums?
    18. 18. Contribute to learning  “I like the forums, you learn a lot (…) people teach you – without necessarily telling you what the solution is – but they guide you.” (Emengo, 40s, bachelor degree, Nigeria)
    19. 19. Not fit for purpose  “I personally dislike the forum dynamics. I don’t like it …… because it’s not in real-time. It’s not just about real-time, it’s also about feedback. In forums, most people, say, enter, say something, stay for maybe half an hour or so, and then they leave. And they tend not to come back to the same forum ever again. So, I really dislike that.” (Lucas, Spain, Masters, mid 20s)
    20. 20. Not for interaction but for information  “Very little. I mean (…) I really enjoy collaborating with people in my job (...) but I found it was easier to just read the materials on my own; I didn’t feel the need to leverage the community in order to complete the work.” (Oliver, Canada, early 30s, graduate )  “Having done a science degree, I’m very comfortable with researching (…) for me, I think for me to just be asking a question into the forum universe, you don’t really know if the person answering know what they’re talking about” (Julia, UK, 20s graduate)
    21. 21. Sub-forums are generally “vulnerable”, and some are more vulnerable than others
    22. 22. Forum disaggregation  Video link
    23. 23. Next steps  Continue to develop a qualitative set of learner profiles that incorporates a number of dimensions to explain if, how and why people use the forums  Helps to inform the development of the quantitative set of learner profiles that reflect the different ways and reasons that people interact with one another in MOOC  Link these profiles to learner characteristics and course outcomes  Test on a wider set of data )
    24. 24. Acknowledgements  Project team  Chris Davies, Isis Hjorth, Taha Yasseri  Professor Michael Lenox and Kristin Palmer, UVA  Coursera  Project site