Professional Learning in Massive Open Online Courses

Milligan, Colin; Littlejohn, Allison and Ukadike, Obiageli (2014). Professional Learning in Massive Open Online Courses. In: Proceedings of The Ninth International Conference on Networked Learning 2014 (Bayne, S.; Jones, C.; de Laat, M.; Ryberg, T. and Sinclair, C. eds.), pp. 368–371.



This study explores the role of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in supporting and enabling professional learning, or learning for work. The research examines how professionals self-regulate their learning in MOOCs. The study is informed by contemporary theories of professional learning, that argue that conventional forms of learning are no longer effective in knowledge intensive domains. As work roles evolve and learning for work becomes continual and personalised, self-regulation is becoming a critical element of professional learning. Yet, established forms of professional learning generally have not taken advantage of the affordances of social, semantic technologies to support self-regulated learning. MOOCs present a potentially useful approach to professional learning that may be designed to encourage self-regulated learning. The study is contextualised within ‘Fundamentals of clinical trials', a MOOC for health professionals designed and run by the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, and offered by edX. The research design builds on the authors' previous studies in the areas of Technology Enhanced Learning and Professional Learning and in particular, research which explored the learning behaviours of education professionals in the Change 11 MOOC. The previous studies demonstrated a link between individual learners SRL profile and their goal setting behaviour in the Change 11 MOOC as well as uncovering other factors which influenced their engagement with the MOOC environment. The present study extends the original study by further focusing on specific aspects of self-regulation identified by the Change11 studies and our parallel studies of self-regulated learning in knowledge workers. The analysis of learner behaviour in the Fundamentals of Clinical Trials is complemented by additional exploration of the design considerations of the MOOC, to determine the extent to which course design can support or inhibit self-regulation of learning. The study poses three research questions: How are Massive Open Online Courses currently designed to support self-regulated learning? What self-regulated learning strategies and behaviours do professionals adopt? and How can MOOCs be designed to encourage professionals to self-regulate their learning? Validated methods and instruments from the original study will be adapted and employed. The research is unique in providing evidence around two critical aspects of MOOCs that are not well understood: the skills and dispositions necessary for self-regulated learning in MOOC environments, and how MOOCs can be designed to encourage the development and emergence of SRL behaviours.

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