This study explored the role of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in supporting and enabling professional learning, or learning for work. The research examined how professionals self-regulate their learning in MOOCs. The study was informed by contemporary theories of professional learning, that argue that conventional forms of learning are no longer effective in knowledge-intensive domains (Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2013).
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 was 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 the online learning platform edX.
Research data was gathered and analysed by the Caledonian Academy at Glasgow Caledonian University, an established Technology Enhanced Learning research centre in the UK.
The research design built on previous studies in the areas of Technology Enhanced Learning and Professional Learning led by this centre, notably Self-Regulated Learning in MOOCs (SRL-MOOC), which provided evidence of the learning behaviours of education professionals in the Change 11 MOOC (Milligan, Margaryan & Littlejohn, 2013; Milligan, Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2013). Validated methods and instruments from this study were adapted and employed.
The research was unique in providing evidence around two critical aspects of MOOCs that are not well understood: the course design features, skills and dispositions necessary for self-regulated learning in MOOC environments, and how MOOCs can be designed to encourage professional learning. A range of outputs is available, designed to be of use to the learning, research and MOOC development communities.
The use of MOOCs for professional learning opens up access to high quality learning for professionals working in conditions where opportunities for professional development are limited, in line with the principles of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
See a short Professional Learning in Massive Open Online Courses case study, and a PL-MOOC Press Release.