Despite my obvious and debilitating incompetence and lack of experience, I keep getting asked to speak or write about MOOCs. Now, I take these things fairly seriously (really, I do) and try to read as much of the latest research as I can.
There are more nonsensical news stories about MOOCs every day, and I like to provide a balance by talking about actual research that has been done properly. The amazing Vivien Rolfe has been working on a mammoth paper on the state of the wider MOOC literature with an emphasis on the student experience (previewed at OpenEd13), and there have been two other reviews I know of, from Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena and Stephen Haggard/BIS.
The general opinion appears to be that there is very little decent research out there, and that blog posts can often be as useful – and far more timely – than a published and reviewed paper. This type of “Open Practice” has meant that we can access and talk about high-quality research as it is conducted: it leads to better discussions and better policy-making.
So imagine my delight when I heard about the Mooc Research Initiative being led by none other than George “Connectivism” Siemens. Here, then, would be a whole range of projects learning and sharing in the open – offering high-quality insights into the MOOC phenomenon and raising the quality of this important national debate?
Alas, no – not in the main.
|Project||Announcement or Press Release||Blog posts||Papers and presentations||Twitter accounts|
|The discursive construction of MOOCs as educational opportunity and educational threat: Neil Selwyn and Scott Bulfin||Monash News Story|
AFR News Story
|-The Life Cycle of a Million MOOC Users: Laura Perna, Alan Ruby and Robert Boruch||UPenn press release||Paper (Dec 13)||Laura Perna
|-Professional Learning through Massive Open Online Courses: Allison Littlejohn and Colin Milligan||Glasgow Caledonian Project Page||Allison Littlejohn
|-Characteristics and completion rates of distributed and centralised MOOCs: Martin Weller and Katy Jordan||Series of blog posts||Paper (Jan 14)||Martin Weller
|Conceptualizing Interaction and Learning in MOOCs: Rebecca Eynon, Chris Davies, Nabeel Gillani and Taha Yasseri.||Oxford project page||MRI13 slides||Taha Yasseri|
|-Peer Assessment and Academic Achievement in a Gateway MOOC: Mark Warschauer, Suhang Jiang, Adrienne Williams, Diane O’Dowd, Thurston Domina and Padhraic Smyth.||UCI project page||MRI13 (?) Prezi||Mark Marschauer|
|Investigating the benefits of embedding motivational messages in online exercises: Joseph Jay Williams, John Mitchell and Neil Heffernan||Joseph J Williams|
|-Social Network Formation and its Impact on Learning in MOOC-Eds: Shaun Kellogg, Kevin Oliver and Sherry Booth.||MOOC-Ed News Story||Shaun Kellogg
|-Enabling Resilient Massive Scale Open Online Learning Communities through Models of Social Emergence: Carolyn Rose|
|MOOCs Personalization for Various Learning Goals: Sergiy Nesterko and Svetlana Dotsenko||Harvard News Story||Blog posts||Sergiy Nesterko
|-Secondary School Students and MOOC’s: A Comparison between Independent MOOC Participation and Blended Learning: Rosemary Evans, Dilip Soman, Laurie Harrison and Christopher Federico||UToronto Project Page||Rosemary Evans
|-The Relations Between MOOC Participants’ Motivational Profiles, Engagement Profile and Persistence: Bruno Poellhuber, Terry Anderson, Jacques Raynauld, Jean Talbot and Normand Roy||Paper (pending)||Terry Anderson|
|-Understanding the Relationship MOOC Students Have with Traditional Institutions of Higher Education: Christopher Brooks, Stephanie Teasley and Steven Lonn||UMich Project Page||Stephanie Teasley
|-Understanding Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a Pathway to Employment for Low-Income Populations: Tawanna Dillahunt and Stephanie Teasley||UMich Project Page|
|MRI13 Presentation||Stephanie Teasley|
|-MOOC Learner Motivation and Course Completion Rates: Yuan Wang and Ryan Baker||Related presentation||Elle Yuan Wang|
|-Learning Analytics for Smarter Psychological Interventions: Daniel Greene, Carol Dweck and John Mitchell||Stanford Project Page|
|-Beyond and Between “Traditional” MOOCs: Agile and Just-in-Time Learning: Jennifer Campbell, Alison Gibbs, Laurie Harrison and Stian Håklev||UToronto News Story||Jennifer Campbell
|-Writing to Learn and Learning to Write across the Disciplines: Peer-to-Peer Writing in Introductory-level MOOCs: Denise Comer and Dorian Canelas|
|-Hatch, match, and dispatch: Examining the relationship between student intent, expectations, behaviours and outcomes in six Coursera MOOCs at the University of Toronto: Laurie Harrison, Carol Rolheiser, Stian Håklev and Chris Teplovs||MRI13 Presenation||Carol Rolheiser
|-UW System College Readiness Math MOOC Study: Robert Hoar|
|-Mapping the Dynamics of Peer-to-Peer Interaction in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Don Huesman|
|-Promoting a Higher-Level Learning Experience: Investigating the Capabilities, Pedagogical Role, and Validity of Automated Essay Scoring in MOOCs: Erin Reilly, Stephanie Corliss, Cynthia Louden, Kyle Williams, Emily Cicchini, Donna Kidwell and Dawn Zimmaro|
|-Developing data standards and technology enablers for MOOC Data Science: Kalyan Veeramachaneni and Una-May O’Reilly|
|-Patterns of Persistence: What Engages Students in a Remedial English Writing MOOC?: John Whitmer, Eva Schiorring and Pat James||Related paper|
|-Detecting and Analyzing Subpopulations within Connectivist MOOCs: Martin Hawksey and Maren Deepwell||Blog Posts||MRI13 Presentation|
|-Finding and Developing Talent: The Role of Employers in the Future of MOOCs: Keith Whitfield, Alexandria Walton Radford and Vera Luck|
|-MOOC instructional design principles: Ensuring quality across scale and diversity: Martha Cleveland-Innes, Derek Briton, Mike Gismondi and Cindy Ives||UBC News Story||Presentation on prior work|
|-A crowdsourced MOOC: David Cormier and Piotr Mitros||Blog Posts (1, 2)||DaveCormier|
Very, very few projects are blogging regularly about their work. Some projects don’t even have any kind of web presence outside of the MRI site and conference. An awful lot don’t even have their MRI presentation anywhere accessible.
Now I understand that there are time pressures on short projects like this, and there may be a desire to publish in a decent journal – especially for new academics and PIs. I totally get the reluctance to share things that are not quite finished, and may even be a blind alley. And it is surely true that some institutions and research groups may have entirely sensible policies on when and where new research is shared.
But I also know, as an interested policy maker, that I want to read about what is going on – and what we are beginning to understand about these large online courses. And that “open practice” would really help me make a difference.
But BEING OPEN IS HARD, and we should never forget this. Being open is even hard for academics writing and researching about open education.
When I looked after UKOER projects, I insisted that they all wrote blogs for precisely this reason (some proof), and when I began to work on the Jisc Summer of Student Innovation I did the same thing. Not all of the projects got it, some tailed off fairly quickly. Which is fine – because being open is hard.
So I’m in no way having a go at the MRI, or George. I could have chosen any research programme in the world and found something similar. This just happens to be the one I am interested in.
BEING OPEN IS HARD. And this is true for all of us. This Open Education Week, challenge yourself with how much of your work and practice you are willing to share.
(MRI grantholders – if you leave links or details in the comments I will add them to the table.)
(MRI managers – you can have this table free, gratis without restriction if you promise to maintain and update it. Let me know where to send it)