A study published by the HEA that looks at the learning taking place in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) shows that participants can and do experience engaged, high quality learning.
Launched today at the HEA’s technology-enhanced learning enhancement event, Engaged learning in MOOCs: a study using the UK Engagement Survey sets out to answer the question: how can we know what learning is taking place in MOOCs, and from there identify MOOCs’ potential for future use in HE?
Using a specially-adapted version of the HEA’s UK Engagement Survey (UKES) 2014, the research team at the University of Southampton asked participants who had completed one of two MOOCs delivered through the FutureLearn platform and designed and run at the university about their experiences as learners and their engagement with their respective MOOC.
The results also show that both of the MOOCs were successful in enabling many participants to feel engaged in intellectual endeavours such as forming new understandings, making connections with previous knowledge and experience, and exploring knowledge actively, creatively and critically. In response to the open access approach – in which no one taking part in a MOOC is required to have a minimum level of previous educational achievement - the report shows that persistent learners engaged, regardless of prior educational attainment.
Also published today is Liberating learning: experiences of MOOCs. This third report in an HEA series investigating learning in MOOCs sought out accounts of learning from ten people who completed
one of the University of Southampton’s MOOCs during 2014. The research wanted to gain insights into why participants had chosen to study in this way, and to learn more about the issues and opportunities they had encountered.
The report shows that the learners interviewed had “very much enjoyed their MOOC experience, saw fellow learners and MOOC education teams as pivotal to their success, and particularly valued the unconditional and free nature of their learning. Their motives were primarily for intellectual stimulation and personal development, so, unsurprisingly, few anticipated seeking assessment or accreditation for their learning.”
The study offers a ‘four quadrant’ framework to support course design of MOOCs which the authors hope will be beneficial to educators and learners alike.
Dr Alison Le Cornu, Consultant in Academic Practice, HEA, comments:
“MOOCs have become increasingly popular in the changing landscape of higher education and present many challenges to traditional approaches to and assumptions about learning and teaching. As change and innovation occurs, it is important not to lose sight of the learner. As the national body for learning and teaching in higher education, the HEA is pleased to be able to support the sector by offering insights into learning experiences on MOOCs through both of these research reports.”
Notes to editors
1. The HEA’s focus on learning and teaching in MOOCs has encompassed the publication of three reports: The pedagogy of the Massive Open Online course (HEA 2014) by Sian Bayne and Jen Ross (University of Edinburgh); Engaged learning in MOOCS: a study using the UK Engagement Survey (HEA 2015) by Julie Wintrup, Kelly Wakefield and Hugh Davis (University of Southampton) and Liberating learning: experiences of MOOCs (HEA 2015) by Julie Wintrup, Kelly Wakefield, Debra Morris and Hugh Davis (University of Southampton).
2. The HEA’s UK Engagement Survey (UKES) is the only undergraduate survey in the UK to focus on student engagement. UKES is based on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is widely used in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. UKES was piloted in 2013 and gathered over 8500 responses from nine institutions. Read the report of the 2013 pilot.
A second pilot took place in 2014, involving 32 institutions and over 25,000 students, and the report was published in November 2014. Read the report of the 2014 pilot.
3. The University of Southampton developed two new MOOCs, Web Science: how the web is changing the world and Exploring our Oceans, for delivery through the FutureLearn initiative. Both ran for the first time in 2013 and early 2014.