MOOC Educators: Who They Are And How They Learn

Papathoma, Tina (2019). MOOC Educators: Who They Are And How They Learn. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study set out to answer the following research questions: who teaches in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how do these different educators learn to teach?

To do this, it utilised Tynjälä’s theoretical model of Integrative Pedagogy that brings together different elements of professional expertise. To this end, a ‘multiple case study’ was conducted, with a focus on teaching activities and who is involved in them, as well as on educators’ ‘processes of knowledge building’, and the forms of knowledge they integrate. The data comprised 28 interviews with professionals with teaching responsibilities in seven MOOCs on the subject of History and of Politics on the FutureLearn platform. The seven cases were analysed using different strategies (theoretical propositions, ground-up data, and rival explanations).

The analysis showed that the role of ‘educator’ is filled not only by those with the titles used by the FutureLearn platform, but also by other professionals who take pedagogical decisions. MOOC teaching activities are diverse, different from face-to-face teaching and it is difficult for them to be carried out by a single individual. Educators in different courses and different universities used diverse models of work practice, each of which had advantages and disadvantages. MOOC educators learned to teach effectively when they had a shared goal, worked in transparent ways and involved interdisciplinary teams in a timely manner.

These findings can help institutions and platforms to design better Continuing Professional Development programmes and, ultimately, more effective MOOC learning journeys. Drawing on this evidence, the original contribution to knowledge of this thesis is a new conceptualisation of who the educators of MOOCs are, developed by uncovering the roles of professionals who carry out teaching on these courses, the wide variety of teaching activities involved and the ways people learn to work towards these.

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