Are MOOCs immune to rigorous investigation?

The title of this post is taken from David Wiley’s blog post that he made earlier this year. And this week on Twitter Apostolos Koutropoulos commented that there is currently a lot of comment on MOOCs, but much less research.

David Wiley mentions that his PhD student is researching MOOCs and I know that Eleni Boursinou of the Caledonian Academy in Glasgow – is researching the FSLT12 MOOC, so I suspect there are many more PhD students who are investigating MOOCs.

I think it’s probably true that there is more comment on MOOCs than published research, but the body of research is slowly growing. Here are a couple of links which point to research and there are more:

A Wikipedia site

Rita Kop and colleagues’s publications

Recently I worked with George Roberts, Marion Waite and Liz Lovegrove (from Oxford Brookes University), Joe Rosa (Cambridge University) and Sylvia Currie, BC Campus Canada (see Tutor Team), to develop and run the FSLT12 MOOC earlier this year. A funding  requirement of this MOOC is to follow it up with research.

Yesterday we had a full day review/research meeting in Oxford, on an exceptionally hot day, which made Oxford’s yellow sandstone buildings look spectacular, but made concentration a bit difficult …… but we had a very enjoyable and ultimately productive day, fuelled by edible treats and celebrated at the end of the day with a bottle of Prosecco! Thanks George and Marion 🙂

We have decided on four research papers, which we hope will reach different audiences.

  1. What evidence is there for the ways people learn in MOOCs (I will lead on this one). Audience – Studies in Higher Education or BERJ
  2. How do you design and plan a MOOC? (George will lead on this one). Audience – JIME or JCAL?
  3. Differential participation and designing for differentiation (Marion will lead this one). Audience – IRRODL
  4. The First Steps curriculum – a case study (Liz will lead this one). Audience – BeJLT and Press release for ALT, HEA, SEDA, JISC ?

We are keen to get this research out as quickly as possible. This will be a challenge for me. I am naturally a ‘slow’ researcher, but I acknowledge that there is a balance to be achieved between reflective, well thought through research and ‘missing the boat’ in relation to the fast moving conversation and developments around MOOCs.

As I have experienced before, it is difficult to know how open to be about ongoing research, i.e. in what sense might openness in the research process compromise the research. I would like to keep posting about our progress and hopefully this won’t compromise the research. In particular I would welcome any thoughts about any of the questions we have and particularly welcome any references to others who have researched and published in similar areas.

Before finishing this post I am going to do a plug here for staying in Exeter College if you ever go to Oxford.

Exeter College, Oxford

My room was a bit noisy so be sure to ask for a room in a quiet area – or even next to the chapel where you might be treated to a Baroque Music Concert; you might even end up in the Chapel at 4.00 am because of a false fire alarm, as I did

The Chapel, Exeter College, Oxford
The Chapel, Exeter College, Oxford

but when you walk into breakfast in this setting, everything is forgiven.

Breakfast in Exeter College Dining Hall, Oxford
Breakfast in Exeter College Dining Hall, Oxford University

Oxford really is an amazing place.

I hope we will be able to show that MOOCs are not immune to rigorous investigation and add to the increasing body of respected research.

#fslt12 Week 0 – starts tomorrow – Monday 14 May

 

 

The run up to the First Steps in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Mooc is well under way. The course officially starts on 21st May (and will run for 5 weeks until 22nd June), so next week is a good time for anyone who is interested in following the course to have a look round our WordPress and Moodle sites and spend a bit of time setting yourself up and deciding where and how you want to participate. These sites are still being developed, so there may be some last minute changes next week.

Designing this course has been more complex than I anticipated and I think this is because the course is neither a fully connectivist course of the type conceived by Downes, Siemens, Cormier and Groom, nor an institutional or commercial type of Mooc (Stanford, MIT, Curtis Bonk). It is somewhere in between and is aligned at least to some extent to Oxford Brookes University’s and funders’ expectations. So we do have an LMS element (Moodle), which feels more like a traditional course, but also the course is open – we will aggregate blogs, and we are expecting people to interact in spaces of their own choosing.

Lisa Lane has written a very interesting (and for me – timely) blog post this week – Where’s your class? musings on course location   in which she describes the type of MOOC we have been developing as a ‘pseudo’ Mooc. A Mooc that perpetuates the idea that ‘class is here’.  She describes the model we have decided on as being the ‘middle ground’.

I recognise our Mooc in what she is saying. Like Lisa, my own preference is for Moocs to be open, distributed and aggregated, but as she has pointed out:

The WordPress Multi-User site, or the LMS that’s open to all, or the main blog where all blog within it but can have their content exported to save (which is what Dave is doing) may then be the preferred models for balancing these issues with those of exploration and innovation. They are being chosen because they take into account concerns of pedagogy and comfort, not because they can handle 1,000 students and use their content and personal information for other ends, but because they work.

Certainly for the #fslt12 MOOC, which is targeted at new lecturers in HE and PhD students who want to teach (although we welcome experienced practitioners as well), we hope to be able to provide a comfortable and safe learning environment for those who need it, for whatever reason.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating 🙂 Whatever happens it has been, and will continue to be, a great learning experience!

Scholars’ participation and practices online

This is the title of George Veletsianos’ talk to Week 33 of ChangeMooc.  George is asking questions which are directly relevant to the Mooc that I am planning with colleagues from Oxford Brookes University – George Roberts, Marion Waite, Liz Lovegrove, Joe Rosa, and Sylvia Currie from British Columbia.

I like the way George has related his post to ChangeMooc to previous speakers in ChangeMooc – Howard Rheingold in Week 15, Tom Reeves in Week 23 and Martin Weller in Week 3. It seems that there is a growing awareness of the issues he is raising, namely:

What are the opportunities and difficulties, for scholars, associated with open sharing of knowledge and practice?

In our First Steps in Learning and Teaching MOOC (#fslt12) , we will be encouraging people who are new to learning and teaching in Higher Education to engage in open academic practice. I will be interested to see what responses we get to this. Will we only have people sign up for the MOOC if they are already comfortable with working openly online? What about the people who are not only new to learning and teaching in Higher Education, but also new to ‘openness’ online?

Martin Weller in his talk to the HEA Workshop held at Oxford University the other week –  said that ‘Openness is a state of mind’.  I agree – but for a novice this openness must be much more difficult to achieve. The risks to reputation, career, credibility and so on, must be much greater.

George Veletsianos’ topic this week is an important one for anyone working in Higher Education, or thinking about working in Higher Education. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the live session, but I will listen to the recording with interest.