Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Category: moocs

MOOCs and Open Education in the Developing World symposium

Posted on August 24th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs. No Comments

A thought-provoking pre-conference symposium is being organized and facilitated on October 17th by Curt Bonk, Sheila Jagannathan, Tom Reeves, and Tom Reynolds at this year’s E-learn conference. It’s focused on a variety of innovations pertaining to online learning in the context of the developing world. While some research demonstrates that  socioeconomic divides persist in the context of MOOCs used by US learners, the symposium organizers note that “minimal attention has been placed on how developing countries and regions of the world are taking advantage of these new forms of technology-enabled learning” and “this is exactly where exciting and impactful innovations are currently occurring.”

Beyond the impressive list of presenters, I appreciate

  • the diverse organizations represented here, which include universities, polytechnics, non-profits, NGOs, and financial institutions
  • the main questions behind the symposium, which is: How do innovations work in different contexts, for whom, why, and what can we learn from one another?

Plus: It’s in Vancouver, off the coast of Canada’s paradise, Victoria ;)

A large-scale study of Twitter Use in MOOCs

Posted on February 1st, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, online learning, open, papers. 4 comments

Researchers have proposed that social media might offer many benefits to Massive Open Online Courses. Yet such claims are supported by little empirical evidence. The existing research exploring the use of social media in MOOCs has been conducted with individual courses and convenience samples, making it difficult to know to what extent research results are generalizable. In this mixed methods research, I used data mining techniques to retrieve a large-scale Twitter data set from 116 MOOCs with course-dedicated hashtags. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, I then examined users’ participation patterns, the types of users posting to those hashtags, the types of tweets that were posted, and the variation in types of posted tweets across users. I found little evidence to support the claims that Twitter as an adjunct to MOOCs is used much/effectively. Results show that learners make up only about 45% of users and contribute only about 35% of tweets. The majority of users contribute minimally, and an active minority of users contributes the preponderance of messages.

Brand new tennis ball with bright fluorescent green felt and white rubber band, surrounded by eight other used balls with duller, more washed out colors, deteriorated nap and dirt marks.

Brand new tennis ball among eight used ones – Image by Horia Varlan CC-BY

These findings do not reveal substantive evidence of learners contributing to multiple hashtags, which may suggest that learners did not find Twitter to be a useful space that provided added value or responded to their needs. Ultimately, these results demonstrate the need for greater intentionality in integrating social media into MOOCs.

I am linking to the pdf pre-print of this article below.

Veletsianos, G. (in press). Toward a Generalizable Understanding of Twitter and Social Media Use Across MOOCs: Who Participates on MOOC Hashtags and In What Ways? Journal of Computing in Higher Education.

 

Listening to learners to improve access, equity, their experiences, and education overall

Posted on April 29th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, moocs, my research, online learning, open. No Comments

Over the last year or so, we’ve interviewed more than 200 individuals who have participated in a number of open courses. We are working on a project in which we are using learner narratives and vignettes from these interviews to help administrators, faculty, researchers, and learning designers understand learners and improve their learning experience. Though there are many ways that are used to understand learners (e.g., dashboards) we believe that in-depth vignettes of typical experiences may allow for greater sensitivity of the learners’ lifeworld and realities. We will be using these stories to problematize various aspects of digital learning. Each story will be followed by a longer analysis of the issues raised in the story. For now, below is one such (DRAFT!) story. What do you think? Is there anything else that you’d like to see in this narrative? Is it interesting? If you are an administrator, faculty, researcher, or learning designer, does this story add anything valuable?

 

Title: Why not?

Theme:  Open learning opportunities are oftentimes costless and relatively risk-free.

Mary and her demanding Pomeranian, Kylie, live deep in the heart of Texas. “I have a passion for the law!” the thirty-year-old exclaimed when we called her on her landline. She had seriously considered going to law school and had even passed her LSATS, the law school entrance exams used for US Universities. But having just finished four intense years of a bachelor’s degree, she decided to wait a bit. “Law school just didn’t seem like a good choice at the time,” she reflected. Five years later, Mary has settled into her work as a business consultant. Her interest in the law is still keen, and she’s never completely given up the dream of law school, but it’s been tempered with a bit of realism. “I don’t know if I can afford to spend another three years in the classroom,” she confided to us, “I don’t know if I still have the same passion for the legal industry as I did five years ago.”

During an afternoon enjoying frozen mango margaritas with a friend, trying to cope with the scorching sun, Mary learned about MOOCs. Shortly thereafter, she signed up for a number of courses, dabbling in some and promptly forgetting about others. One day, ContractsX, a course on contract law taught by a Harvard professor, popped up on her screen and she decided to “give it a shot”. What had she got to lose? “It’s a free class, taught at one of the more well-respected institutions. Why not?!” she laughed.

The course was flexible and fit into her busy life. On Saturday mornings she would sit in her office, with Kylie by her side and a warm cup of dark roast coffee in her hand, and use her trusted iPad to watch Harvard Law lectures. These weren’t just any lectures. Professor Fried was a masterful storyteller, a king of his trade. It was through these short, interesting, and memorable stories that Professor Fried taught concepts relating to contract law. “I can’t believe that I’m sitting here, I’m learning this material from Harvard law!” The fast pace and cramped content made the course challenging, Mary acknowledged, and she didn’t always do as well as she would have liked on the course tests. But, as she was able to go back to review the answers and re-watch the videos, this didn’t stress her too much, and she ended up passing the course with flying colours. Proud of her certificate of accomplishment, Mary enthused, “It makes me want to keep coming back for more!”

Even though it was a personal interest in the law that led her to sign up for this course, Mary has found what she learned in ContractsX helpful when she has to deal with contracts in her own job. She has enthusiastically recommended the course to co-workers and friends. She’s currently taking a number of other open courses and is anxiously awaiting the second version of the Contracts course. While Mary’s dream of attending law school, may not have changed, her confidence in herself has: “I never thought of applying to Harvard. There was no way I would be getting in. But then, five years later, I’m taking a course from Harvard. I wouldn’t say that I’m a Harvard law student, but at least now I could sit across from a Harvard law student and have a clear conversation with them. It’s very rewarding to know that.”

 

Analysis of the data-driven MOOC literature published in 2013-2015

Posted on March 21st, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, moocs, my research, online learning, open, papers. 2 comments

A number of literature reviews have been published on MOOCs. None has focused exclusively on the empirical literature. In a recent paper, we analyzed the empirical literature published on MOOCs in 2013-2015 to make greater sense of who studies what and how.  We found that:

  • more than 80% of this literature is published by individuals whose home institutions are in North America and Europe,
  • a select few papers are widely cited while nearly half of the papers are cited zero times,
  • researchers have favored a quantitative if not positivist approach to the conduct of MOOC research,
  • researchers have preferred the collection of data via surveys and automated methods
  • some interpretive research was conducted on MOOCs in this time period, but it was often basic and it was the minority of studies that were informed by methods traditionally associated with qualitative research (e.g., interviews, observations, and focus groups)
  • there is limited research reported on instructor-related topics, and
  • even though researchers have attempted to identify and classify learners into various groupings, very little research examines the experiences of learner subpopulations (e.g., those who succeed vs those who don’t; men vs women).

We believe that the implications arising from this study are important for research on educational technology in general and not jut MOOC research. For instance, given the interest on big data and automated collection/analysis of the data trails that learners leave behind on digital learning environments, a broader methodological toolkit is imperative in the study of emerging digital learning environments.

Here’s a copy of the paper:

Veletsianos, G. & Shepherdson, P. (2016). A Systematic Analysis And Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(2).

 

Digging deeper into learners’ experiences in MOOCs – infographic

Posted on February 16th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, online learning, open, scholarship. No Comments

The British Journal of Educational Technology and BERA approached us to create an infographic for the article we (Amy Collier, Emily Schneider, and myself) published last year: Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption

Below is the outcome (and a pdf version is here):

Veletsianos_BJET_infographic

Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought MOOC & open course transparency

Posted on November 25th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, my research, open, sharing. 3 comments

The New York Times published an article on an edX course (Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought) offered by Tsinghua University. Inside Higher Ed (IHE) wrote about it, too. The following quote from IHE articles summarizes the articles:

“That course is raising eyebrows because, despite hours of video lectures and supplemental material in the course, students would still have to tab over to Wikipedia to learn about the millions who died as a result of Mao’s land reforms or that his economic initiatives led to what may have been the greatest famine in human history, which killed tens of millions. Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought references those events glancingly in passing as “mistakes,” and generally heaps praise on Mao and his philosophies.”

I was asked to provide commentary for the New York Times article, and since it wasn’t included in the writeup, I thought it would be a good idea to share it publicly rather than leave it hidden away in my email inbox. Here is what I said:

Open courses are transparent, and that’s one of their positive aspects. They allow anyone to examine the ways that course creators think about a topic. The instructional materials from the Mao course are available to anyone to examine and study. One can look at the materials and ask: How do these materials position Mao Zedong? What are the elements of Mao’s thought that the creators of this course want to highlight? What elements of Mao’s thoughts are left behind and what are the elements that are being highlighted? What is the story that is being told here, and who stands to benefit from this story?

Stephen Downes made a similar argument in the IHE article: ““courses that might have been offered behind closed doors are offered for everyone to see.”

Now, that’s parsimonious :)

 

What is it like to learn and participate in MOOCs?

Posted on November 16th, by George Veletsianos in learner experience, moocs, online learning, open. No Comments

We recently published a special issue for Educational Media International by asking authors to submit papers focusing on the following question: What is it like to learn and participate in MOOCs? This has now been published.

We developed this special issue to enhance our collective understanding of learner experiences and participation in MOOCs because the scholarly community still has an incomplete mosaic of students’ learning experiences with open online learning.

The following papers are included:

Editorial: Contributions to the mosaic describing learners’ experiences with open online learning (pdf)
George Veletsianos and Vrasidas Charalambos

Learning from MOOCs: a qualitative case study from the learners’ perspectives
Yeonjeong Park, Insung Jung and Thomas C. Reeves

A classroom at home: children and the lived world of MOOCs
Yin Yin, Catherine Adams, Erika Goble and Luis Francisco Vargas Madriz

What makes a cMOOC community endure? Multiple participant perspectives from diverse cMOOCs
Maha Bali, Maureen Crawford, Rhonda Jessen, Paul Signorelli and Mia Zamora

Fulfilling the promise: do MOOCs reach the educationally underserved?
Lorrie Schmid, Kim Manturuk, Ian Simpkins, Molly Goldwasser and Keith E. Whitfield

Examining learners’ perspective of taking a MOOC: reasons, excitement, and perception of usefulness
M. Liu, J. Kang and E. McKelroy

 

  • Note: While the journal is not open access, a number of the authors above have self-archived copies of their paper, like I am doing above.

 

Automating the collection of literature – or, keeping up to date with the MOOC literature

Posted on August 6th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, moocs, open, sharing, work. 1 Comment

Spoiler: We’ve been toying with automating the collection of literature on MOOCs (and other topics). Interested? Read further.

Researchers use different ways to keep updated with the literature on a topic. On a daily basis for example, I use Table of Content (TOC) alerts, RSS feeds, and Google Scholar alerts. Many colleagues have sought to keep track of literature on a topic and share it. For example, danah boyd maintained this list of papers on Twitter and microblogging; Tony Bates shared a copy of the MOOC literature he collected on his blog; Katy Jordan also kept a collection of MOOC literature.

gscholar

A Google Scholar Alert

The problem with maintaining an updated list of relevant literature on a topic is that it quickly becomes a daunting and time-consuming task, especially for popular topics (like MOOCs or social media or teacher training).

In an attempt to automate the collection and sharing of  literature, my research team and I created a python script that goes through the Google Scholar alert emails that I receive (see above), parses the content of the emails, and places it in an html page on my server, from where others can access it. The script runs daily and any new literature is added to the page.

We aren’t there just yet, but here is the output for the MOOC literature going back to November 2012. All 400 pages. I placed it in a Google Document because the html file is 2.5mb (and its easier for people to just download it in a format that they prefer)

In theory this is supposed to work quite well, but there’s a couple of problems with it:

  1. The output is as good as the input. Google Scholar (and its associated alerts) are a black box – meaning there’s no transparency of what is and isn’t indexed.
  2. It’s automated – which means it’s not clean and some “mooc literature” may not really be mooc literature because Google Scholar alerts work on keywords in the body of papers/text rather than keywords describing the papers/text.

We plan on to make the source code available and describe the process to install this so that others can use it for their own literature needs. My question is: How can the output be more helpful to you? Is there anything else that we can do to improve this?