Sunday, June 9, 2013

MOOCs in research spotlight

As the dust of the last 2 years of hype and optimism begins to settle it's time for some MOOC research; how they work (or not), student motivation, learning outcomes, pedagogical aspects etc. The original connectivist MOOCs have been well studied and in particular Rita Kop and Helene Fournier have written a series of articles on issues arising from those courses. Most of these MOOCs are aimed at educational professionals and are highly experimental and pedagogically innovative so it's only natural that they spawn many research articles.

However the mass-market MOOCs of the last two years raises new questions since their format is more linear and traditional and the participants so diverse. There has been a deluge of news and blog posts on these MOOCs but very little solid academic research. A welcome development is the formation of the MOOC Research Hub which aims to stimulate and fund research into MOOCs and act as a hub for disseminating results. The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the academic coordination lies with Athabasca University in Canada.

"The dramatic increase in online education, particularly Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), presents researchers, academics, administrators, learners, and policy makers with a range of questions as to the effectiveness of this format of teaching and learning. To date, the impact of MOOCs and emerging forms of digital learning has been largely disseminated through press releases and university reports, with only limited peer-reviewed research publication. The proliferation of MOOCs in higher education requires a concerted and urgent research agenda." 

The first stage is underway; researchers are invited to submit abstracts of proposed projects with grants of $10,000 – $25,000 available to those selected (see details of the submission process). The selected projects will be expected to present preliminary findings at the MOOC Conference, University of Texas, Arlington, December 5-6, 2013.

The site will also act as a hub for all MOOC research as well as linking to conferences, webinars and events. It's good to see that the Steering Committee for the MOOC Research Initiative Grants includes both leading figures from the xMOOC consortia as well as George Siemens, one of the creators of the original cMOOCs. The MOOC Research site is still under development but it is definitely one to bookmark and follow.

Read also a good article on MOOC research by George Veletsianos, The research that MOOCs need.

An hour after posting this I discovered that a journal called Research and Practice in Assessment has just released a special issue on MOOCs. It's free to download or view as a flipbook.

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