#CFHE12 #Oped12 Research into MOOCs Part 1

Why are there so few researches done on MOOCs?

What are the challenges in conducting researches into MOOCs?

Here oped12-need-for-more-research-related, Osvaldo concludes:

These are just 4 illustrations that exemplify some important issues in online education today.

  • Academic papers whose references are based on blogs and newspaper articles.
  • Numbers quoted by newspapers and blogs that can be totally misleading.
  • More precise information from learning analytics and more published research are needed.
  • Since the average time it takes for a research paper to get published in a peer reviewed journal is around 4 months, when they do appear they are most probably obsolete.Research in online education needs to change its publishing methodology to a more dynamic format. (If interested in this particular point I have discussed it in more detail in a previous blog post (Rodriguez 2012)).

There are 5 challenges of researching into MOOCs:

1. Difficulty in coming to generalization, with views and perspectives of learners posted on forum or discussion boards and blog posts

Sounds like a sandwich approach in comments. Start with praises, followed by criticisms, then supportive reinforcement  http://coursetalk.org/machine-learning-stanford …

If you were to write a research paper based on such postings, isn’t it perfect to say xMOOCs provide great learning experience for the learners?  To what extent are such claims applicable to all participants?  Most MOOC participants to a survey research would likely do the same, by providing valuable and honest feedback about the course design and delivery.  However, what are the presumptions here?  Those who like the MOOCs would post their comments on the discussion board.  Those who don’t wouldn’t even bother to comment.  May be, or may be not?

How about the views and experiences of other educators, professors of these MOOCs?  You would find a lot in the blog posts, where praises and criticisms are all nuanced or mixed, using the sandwich approach, in order to show an “appreciation” of MOOCs.

2. Difficulty in evaluation of MOOCs (both x and c MOOCs), due to differences in the lenses of pedagogy adopted by the researchers

If we were to evaluate MOOCs for xMOOCs based on Mastery Learning as a pedagogy, then we would likely come up with the conclusion that Mastery Learning is a perfect way to teach and learn, as the assumptions behind such pedagogy are “proven” based on “facts” and “praises” by the learners, likely those who successfully achieved mastery through learning with the course.

What about those participants (or researchers) who prefer to learn with other pedagogy, likely due to their different “schools” of thoughts?  For instance, those who learn through a connectivist or constructivist approaches towards learning, where learning is based on Connectivism, or Constructivism, and Social Constructivism.  Would these participants come up with the same or similar evaluation of the course and the presenter(s)?  There are many assumptions behind such nuances and differences in views of the MOOCs.  The strong criticisms on both sides of the MOOCs are evident, from both educators and participants.

3. Who are conducting the researches on MOOCs?  Would that make a difference in the research findings and conclusion?

Would the research studies be coming out from researchers, academics, scholars, or students?  It’s likely that each groups of researchers would look at MOOCs from different angles, perspectives, even with the findings pretty much similar, through research studies.  This has been revealed through many researches, where participants continued to praise the MOOCs.  The challenge is: would researchers be able to disclose any “negative” or “not so positive comments” about the courses?  These are sensitive issues that are bound by research ethics and confidentiality protocols, that none of these comments would be named, and so they remained anonymous.  To what extent would researchers disclose such remarks in their research papers?  How would that type of research findings add value to the research, and respond to the research questions?

4. How would research into MOOCs be funded and supported?

Who would fund such researches in MOOCs?  I have worked with Jenny Mackness, Roy Williams, Rita Kop, and Helene Fournier in research into MOOCs, and none of them were funded by institutions.  I found such researches both interesting and challenging, mainly because research done on a “personal basis” would only be “recognised” by oneself, and organisation so far if it adds value to them.

5. Challenges in collaborative research in MOOCs

As Jenny has posted in her blog here:

For me collaborative research also works best when partners are equally enthusiastic about the research topic and have a genuine desire to dig deep, i.e. it’s more than a jumping through hoops exercise to meet an externally imposed target. The rewarding bit of the research for me is in the discussions that can take place, possibly over many months or even years about the ideas being researched. The actual publication is simply the icing on the cake.

Finally, for me the most rewarding research collaborations have been those where the discussion doesn’t end simply because the paper has been submitted for publication – the discussion has been rich enough to generate too much to say in one publication and ideas for further research immediately spring to mind.

We need partners who would be willing to collaborate with each others, and more importantly willing to open up each other’s minds, in the design and development of research tools and methods which work.  Research into MOOCs is an emerging and evolving practice, and so the publication of paper is just one part of the whole story.   Research into MOOCs also needs to take into considerations the protocols of academic research, where researchers need to understand their roles and responsibility to each others, and to the community that they are associated with, in this case the MOOCs.

mooc download 101

Picture Credit: From Lisa Lane’s post



3 thoughts on “#CFHE12 #Oped12 Research into MOOCs Part 1

  1. Interesting points John – I suspect now with the rise of xMOOCs and the funding they attract that not a few researchers are getting in on the act – maybe some will publish openly in the near future. Rigorous assessment of the educational potential of MOOCs is probably much more difficult than for traditional courses but one thing is actually easier – the digital evidence remains (or should – did I hear that CCK08 records had been wiped out?) and could well be the basis for objective studies of what actually happens in a MOOC as opposed to subjective study of what people think happens and how they feel about it (not that the latter is unimportant!)

  2. Hi Gordon, We hope those researchers would publish using “free” open journals so any one could access it without “fee subscription”, but that is just a dream wish. I agreed that rigorous assessment of the educational potential of MOOCs is probably much more difficult than for traditional course, though the digital evidence could be an excellent way to check on any claims objectively. I think it is extremely important to have objective studies of what actually happens in MOOCs, as you said. This is where empirical research would play a role in revealing certain “truth” in reality.

    The CCK08 forum postings had gone, as I learnt from George Siemens. Is that a pity?

    There are still lots of constraints and challenges imposed on authentic and scholarly research mainly due to the traditional “closed” practice – where peer review is still hailed as the main authoritative way to judge on quality of the research article. Besides, there aren’t much evaluations on the “process of research” as it is normally under the scrutiny of the supervisors of PhD candidates, in the case of institutional research project. There are still only handfuls of research done based on a “non-funded” ground, due to a lack of incentives for the researchers.

    The professors and scholars might be more interested in conducting more researchers on online education and MOOC, though it seems that most, if not all researchers would like to disclose only the positive sides of MOOCs, and that is rational. That is both a pragmatic and marketing strategy to emphasise the strengths of MOOCs, together with the opportunities of MOOCs could bring to business. Criticisms and complaints from stakeholders (participants of MOOCs, professors, experts, consultants) reflected through such researches could be wonderful feedback to educators and administrators of MOOCs, as a basis of continuous improvement and innovation.

    I am wondering whether there are any rigorous researches done on a meta-basis on MOOCs. This includes the collation of researches on learning analytics, narrative research and survey research on MOOCs. May be we need a MOOC PhD in order to do that.

    Thanks again for your visit and comments.


  3. Pingback: #CFHE12 #Oped12 Research into MOOCs Part 1 | New Learning - Ny læring | Scoop.it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s