Look who’s talking: Exploring instructors’ contributions to Massive Open Online Courses

Goshtasbpour, Fereshte; Swinerton, Bronwen and Morris, Neil Peter (2020). Look who’s talking: Exploring instructors’ contributions to Massive Open Online Courses. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(1) pp. 228–244.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12787


Previous research on xMOOC pedagogy has established that learner interactions in discussion forums play a fundamental role in learning. However, little is known about the extent to which MOOC instructors engage with learner conversations and the impact this has on learner engagement. Adopting a novel design, this study went beyond self‐reported methods, and combined transcript analysis and in‐depth interviews to examine the dynamics of learner‐instructor interactions and to revisit the use of the Community of Inquiry framework (CoI) in MOOC context. The findings revealed that the majority of instructors’ contributions to learner conversations are social, followed by teaching and cognitive contributions. While all contribution types decreased over the duration of the MOOC, the relative importance of each type did not necessarily change. Furthermore, the analysis showed that learners engaged with 42% of instructor contributions by responding to or liking them or both. Considering the application of the CoI to massive and open online learning contexts, this study demonstrates that while the framework can unfold educational transactions in MOOCs, reoperationalisation and reconceptualisation of some indicators along with the introduction of new indicators are essential. The implications of this for theory and practice are discussed.

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