Self-Directed Learning of Experienced Adult Online Learners Enrolled in FutureLearn MOOCs

de Waard, Inge (2017). Self-Directed Learning of Experienced Adult Online Learners Enrolled in FutureLearn MOOCs. PhD thesis The Open University.



This research resulted in a conceptual framework describing the actual learning components influencing the learning experience of informal, adult learners engaged in FutureLearn courses. The conceptual framework consists of five learning components: individual & social learning, context, technology and media elements, organising learning, and learner characteristics. These five learning components are driven by two enablers or inhibitors of learning: motivation and learning goals. For adult informal learners, motivation is mostly intrinsic, and learning goals are mostly personal.

This research investigated the informal learning of 56 adult learners with prior online experience, engaging in individual and/or social self-directed learning using any device to follow a FutureLearn course. Literature from MOOCs, mobile and informal learning provides scientific support, in addition to literature clarifying the rationale for choosing self-directed learning compared to similar learning concepts (self-regulated, self-determined and self-managed learning). The participants of this study voluntarily followed one of three FutureLearn courses that were rolled out for the first time by the end of 2014. Data were collected at three different stages: an online survey (pre-course), self-reported learning logs (during the course), and semi-structured one-on-one interviews (post-course). The data were analysed using Charmaz’s (2014) method for constructing a grounded theory. The analysis included memo-writing, and involved open coding, line-by-line coding, and focused coding in order to construct a grounded theory that provided insights into the self-directed learning experiences of FutureLearn participants.

By getting a better understanding of the self-directed learning in FutureLearn courses, additional insights are gained to enhance informal learning, instructional design, and to contextualize and personalise learning within FutureLearn courses to create an increasingly meaningful learning experience.

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