Open online course and research

In this What does open really mean? by Tony Bates, he writes:

These programs however do highlight some of the absurdities of credit vs non-credit teaching. What happens when certificate or ‘external’ students who do not qualify for entry to a graduate program do as well or better than the admitted students in the same class?

My point here is that just opening up classes to non-admitted students does little to make access really open, but merely results in frustration when these extra students try to get credit for their often excellent work.

I could understand Tony’s concern relating to the credit versus non-credit students’ tension, with regard to the attention given more to the credit students, leaving the non-credit students feeling like second-class “citizen students”.  Also Tony is concerned on how the system could cope with the often conflicting enrolment policy when dealing with mature candidates who might not have met the entry requirements for advanced courses, but that they have demonstrated excellent work with a lower level course.

There are great points mentioned by Tony when reviewing the design and challenges of an open online course offered to the public.

There are also other considerations such as:

(a) the ethical dimension of mixing credit and non-credit students in an open course – what are the roles, responsibilities of the instructors, credit and non-credit students? What are the entry requirements for both credit and non-credit students or participants? If the course participants are to be surveyed and researched in an online course, what are the ethical considerations for the researcher, the credit and non-credit students?

(b) the education and learning dimension: Should credit and non-credit students be given equal or unequal attention and intervention in an online course? How and why?

(c) the assessment dimension: Should credit and non-credit students be assessed in exactly the same way in an online course?  What sort of flexibility and negotiation in the assessment would be necessary for both credit and non-credit students? How would quality be assured in both credit and non-credit students? Who would be the assessor for credit students? Instructors only? Is peer assessment a plausible option?  How to ensure assessments are validated in an open online course (with credit and non-credit students)?  Is “formal assessment” part of the open online course? What sort of assessment or performance criteria are used?

Here is my experience in the participation of open online course.  Here I would also like to relate to my research experience associated with open online courses.

I have participated in Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK courses) in 2008, then 2009 with George Siemens and Stephen Downes and the Critical Literacies course with Stephen Downes and Rita Kop.  I have found them eye opening experiences, with the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) being offered open to all, with no entry requirements, and without any fees.  They were designed with an all online learning principle, an open sourced educational and learning resources and a distributed learning environment where participants could use the aggregated resources (via course wiki and OL Daily and Daily), create their own resources, create their own blogs, groups or wiki or choose their media space, or participate in Moodle forums, and choose their own connections and study at their own pace, with or without the intervention of instructors (or a minimal intervention from formal instructors, except for the guidance of the resources and mode of learning).
Jenny Mackness, Roy Williams and I, who were CCK08 participants had conducted research on our CCK08 experience and we have since then published two papers- all could be located in my blog post and  Our research was not funded by any organisations and we didn’t spend any money, except our time and our respondents’ generous time on the research. Our research was also shared with the CCK08 & 09 community for further discourse and community review before they were published in the Networked Learning Conference.  I am looking forward to conducting future research based on such approach, or even more open research based on a community research methodology.  I wonder if there has been any researches done that was based on such methodology, and not for qualifications award purpose.  There is a challenge in that open research could be biased because of the impact and influence of other participants opinions in the research process, and so I haven’t heard of anyone trying this ever before.
However, I think research on open online course would be rather restricted to opening up more researches as non-credit participants would not be looking for a qualification in such research, unless they are also undertaking a formal course or research with another institution.
How would one conduct research on open online course? And who would likely conduct such researches?  The instructors?  The participants?  Or both?
Are you interested in conducting researches on online course?