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Learners’ experiences in cMOOCs (2008-2016)

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Jenny Mackness
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Publication date2017
Number of pages102
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Place of PublicationLancaster
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This research began in 2008 (the year of the first MOOC) with the aim of increasing understanding of the diversity and complexity of participants’ learning experiences in connectivist, massive, open, online learning environments (cMOOCs). Through their ‘massiveness’ and openness these MOOCs have the potential to influence traditional conventions of teaching and learning in Higher Education institutions by placing learners in new, uncertain and unpredictable environments.

I have published 21 peer-reviewed works that have been cited by many other researchers in the field. These works contribute to an understanding of the theory and practice of MOOC pedagogy, individual participants’ learning experiences in MOOCs and the roles of teachers in facilitating these experiences. This has led to the development of a multi-dimensional framework (known as ‘Footprints of Emergence’), which takes a holistic approach to reflecting on and evaluating open learning. This unique framework, has been used in the UK, Europe, the USA and Canada to explore the design of open learning environments and to elicit and make explicit tacit understandings of individual learning experiences, positioning such experiences on a spectrum between prescribed and emergent learning.

My work has been collaborative, open and emergent. The research has drawn on social learning theory and connectivism to conduct empirical research into MOOCs. The research findings highlight the diversity of participants in MOOCs and their vulnerability to imbalances of power relations, which can lead to isolation and exclusion, particularly in the absence of sound ethical teaching and learning practices. This is significant because MOOCs can be experienced as liminal spaces in which participants can have transformational learning experiences. I propose that a new perspective on the balance between structure and agency to support these transformational experiences is required. The Footprints of Emergence framework is suggested as a useful tool for determining what an appropriate balance might be.

This research has implications for the methods used for investigating learning experiences in cMOOCs, the design of these MOOCs and the changing roles of teachers, learners and researchers in these environments. The research suggests that innovative methods and frameworks are needed for cMOOC research, that the design of cMOOCs should take greater account of the complexity of open environments, that new responsibilities are required of teachers and that a fresh perspective is needed on the ethics of teaching and learning in MOOCs.