It is my lifelong interest to follow research about learning events during cMOOCs. This time I’ll tell about an article Participants’ Perceptions of Learning and Networking in Connectivist MOOCs, written by Mohsen Saadatmand and Kristiina Kumpulainen. It was published in Merlot Journal of Open Learning and Teaching in March 2014 and you can read the whole text here.
I remember this research because I have answered all the questions and had discussions with Mohsen during the PLENK2010 and CCK11 courses. I liked the way Mohsen planned the research. Now I can learn more using his article. I have to copy pieces of the article in order to use the right concepts, please read the whole article if you are interested. This is only a short copy of it.
The research questions were as follows:
1) How do participants in cMOOCs use tools and resources for their learning?
2) What networking activities take place in cMOOCs?
3) What is the nature of participation and learning in MOOCs, and how is it perceived by Mooc learners?
I am interested in the question 2 and 3, not so much in changing tools and resources. Twitter had become well-known in those days, perhaps for the first time in cMOOCs.
I liked some concepts Mohsen used to describe the research: the study employed an online ethnography design to gain deeper understanding of participation and learning in cMOOCs. Online ethnography or virtual ethnography is a method designed to study cultures and communities online, and the complexities of technologically mediated social worlds. Because of the researcher’s crucial role in ethnography, Mohsen participated in and observed different MOOCs since autumn 2010, which enabled a better understanding of the nature of learning in the MOOCs. I remember him. The methods consisted of an online questionnaire, online semi-structured interviews and autoethnographic insight. The numbers of complete answers were low but it is not necessary to get all the answers to understand a phenomenon.
This paragraph reminds me that research is hard work, the raw data is not the result as such:
The data were interpreted using an ethnographic research design based on a framework of analytic induction and comparative analysis. In this framework, the broad and existing categories and the initial definition of the phenomenon of study were examined through preliminary observations and a small case data collection process (questionnaire). They then underwent continuous refinement throughout further data collection and analysis. The process continued by redefining the phenomenon, developing and reformulating research questions over the course of research, and modifying and refining them based on subsequent cases and more data collection phases (e.g., interviews, participants’ artifacts). Different sources of data were scanned for categories of the phenomenon and relationships among them.
Ethical issues pertaining to online data retrieval were addressed well and the list of references was long and includes all needed sources. I trust it, no need to check them.
Some results: A great majority (87.5%) believed the cMOOC environment helped enhance student autonomy and improve self-directed learning by defining their learning goals and organizing learning activities and interactions. This is perhaps due to the less structured nature of cMOOCs, which creates more room for learners to shape their learning. The role of the instructor is also as important in MOOCs as in a traditional learning setting. MOOC learners had a positive attitude toward the support and feedback received from the course instructor or other course facilitators.
The results show that participation in MOOCs challenges learners to develop self-organization, self-motivation, and a reasonable amount of technological proficiency to manage the abundance of resources and the more open format. Participants in cMOOCs use an array of technologies and various networking skills. The nature of cMOOCs requires students to assume active roles, in a spirit of openness, to shape activities and collaborate in goal achievement. In the dynamic learning environment of cMOOCs, learners become more autonomous in selecting tools and resources, making sense of information and finding their appropriate learning pathways.
Although the descriptive results of this study were based on rather a small number of responses, the data triangulation of online interviews, participants’ online content and interactions, and autoethnographic insight provided a rich account of the nature of learning and participation in cMOOCs. The findings of this study can be further explored in different MOOC contexts.
My copy ends. These results are well-known, but how to go deeper into participatory learning ? The voluntary answers as in this research tell about the most active students who ‘know the rules of the game’ and want to learn more. I don’t know how to continue but I’ll seek for other interesting studies.