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Developing MOOC pedagogy: Gamification and Intelligent Tutoring Systems

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Publication date20/09/2017
Host publicationDigital Universities in the MOOC Era: Redesigning Higher Education
Place of PublicationNaples
PublisherUniversity of Naples Federico II
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) support educational policy initiatives such as Opening Up Education and Open Educational Resources, by making education more accessible to learners through the removal of geographic and economic barriers through access online and at a distance. While online, distance education has been available for 25 years, MOOCs are a more recent development from around 2008 and are still evolving. Pedagogical design of online learning reflects the wide variety of different educational approaches used in off-line training, classrooms and universities. With MOOCs, there is a greater centralization of platforms to support delivery, e.g. FutureLearn, Coursera. While this may be good for the learner, to what extent does this centralisation of platforms influence pedagogy and the delivery of MOOCs? When FutureLearn has a principle to “keep it simple” and design for the common use case, then the effect is to design for the majority and not to cater to the potentially much wider variation in learners that arises out of opening up education to all. Should the idea of differentiation, or multiple pathways of learning, be explored to support the needs of a wider range of learners and potentially reduce the drop out rate?
This paper explores the theory and practice of pedagogical design of MOOCs, with particular attention to two innovative approaches that could become more prominent in the future, namely gamification and intelligent tutoring systems. This literature review focuses on the pedagogical design of MOOCs from an educational technology perspective and explores the opportunities and challenges of two innovative approaches to enhancing teaching and learning within MOOCs in Higher Education. The first approach is called ‘gamification’ which is defined as the use of game design elements (e.g. leaderboards and badge systems, or social networking) in non-game, serious, educational contexts. The justifications for the use of gamification are typically to increase user engagement, motivation, and social support for behavior and attitude change. Gamification is an approach that can be used with a massive number of participants but what are the underlying assumptions of this approach and are they appropriate for the pedagogical design of MOOCs? Can a game element, like the reward (badge) system, be taken out and used in a different context to the same effect? What does it mean for the pedagogical design if gamification is adopted as an approach? The second approach is to add an intelligent tutoring system (ITS), i.e. a computer system that interact with learners and provides adaptive responses to the learner depending on the interaction and what it knows about the learner. ITSs have been used since the mid 1980s and can (partially) replicate the role of a tutor, teaching assistant or more knowledgeable peer. ITSs are intended to provide personalized assistance without the intervention of a human tutor so this approach should be particularly important in the context of massive numbers of participants. How does introducing an intelligent tutoring system change the teaching environment and the pedagogical design of the MOOC? Can an ITS provide assistance to students within a MOOC? What are the advantages and obstacles to using ITSs in MOOCs?
The paper concludes with an assessment of the challenges and barriers to the use of these two innovative approaches in MOOCs and discusses how they can be integrated into pedagogical designs. The role of the platform is discussed and how it has an effect on the centralization and standardization of MOOCs. The potential to support multiple pathways is proposed as a possible route to reducing drop out rates. Areas that would particularly benefit from further research are identified and highlighted.