The findings of the project can be summarised as follows:
While MOOC designs take a variety of shapes and forms, the Fundamentals of Clinical Trials MOOC represents a course design typical of the key MOOC providers (e.g. edX, Coursera, FutureLearn), therefore we can build some generalizable conclusions.
From our observations, the highly structured MOOC design focuses on content provision, which the participants are very positive about. However, the structure does not encourage participants to act in a self-regulatory manner. If anything, participants, even those with high self-regulated learning ability, tend to limit their activity to reading/ interacting with course content, overlooking opportunities to integrate theory with practice.
For example, there is no or limited provision for learners to choose their own goals, to personalize their learning experience or to integrate course content with their own experience within the course structure. Although the course discussion forum is intended as a space for communication and interaction, usability issues, coupled with learners’ perception of the discussion forum as being outside the core of course participation together mean that the level of interaction within the course is poor for most participants.
MOOC design should enable and encourage learners to actively initiate self-regulatory behaviours. However, there are cultural issues around formal learning and motivational factors for the learner (e.g. the learner may be motivated to gain credit or to have a general overview of the concepts, rather than to develop expertise) that influence learning behaviours and strategies.
The participants in our study demonstrated a range of SRL ability based on their completion of the SRLMQ profile instrument.
From analysis of quantitative data we saw evidence of high SRL learners presenting more precise goals and expectations, whatever their motivation for taking the course, than low SRL learners.
From qualitative data, we observed that professional learners tend to conform to passive behaviours in a highly structured MOOC design. Learners focused on activities such as watching videos and taking tests, with little evidence of learners relating new knowledge to practice, or of connecting with their peers through the discussion board.
Learners should take specific actions to develop theoretical and practical expertise, for instance by integrating scientific knowledge developed through formal learning with practical knowledge learned through on-the-job learning. Learners should develop relational and self-regulatory expertise through interactions with the diverse range of participants in the MOOC.
MOOC providers and designers should recognize that to be effective, professional learning should provide opportunities to integrate theoretical and practical knowledge.
There must be a cultural shift around conceptions of learning and teaching and of learner and teacher roles to capitalize on the experience and expertise that professionals bring to their learning (see related work by this group: Littlejohn, Falconer and McGill, 2014).
The three main sources of data (the findings from the SRL literature review, the Design Team Questions tool, and the qualitative and quantitative data sets) were used to develop a set of recommendations for design of MOOCs to support professional learning.
These recommendations are summarized below, with further detail at: http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-recommendations (PDF).
The design of MOOCs that seek to support professional learning should (where possible):
(Further detail is available on the outputs page)