Research design overview and research questions
This study explored the role of MOOCs in supporting and enabling professional learning as people learn for work. The research project ran from October 2013 - March 2014 in three phases.
Phase 1: October - November 2013.
The first phase explored the design strategies used by instructional designers at Harvard University as they organised a Massive Open Online Course for health professionals. Key components of the MOOC design were mapped against the sub-processes of self-regulated learning, to identify how the course had been designed to support and encourage self-regulated learning behaviours. This phase addressed RQ1: How are Massive Open Online Courses currently designed to support self-regulated learning?
Phase 1 comprised four activities:
- Desk research. We reviewed literature on SRL in online contexts to explore learning behaviours associated with key SRL sub-processes, and how these behaviours might be encouraged in MOOCs.
- Design document review. The course (and associated) design documents were analysed to explore the pedagogical decisions of the MOOC design team. Analysis focused on key SRL sub-processes identified during desk research. The audit tool developed to support this (and the next) activity is available at: http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-DTQ PDF)
- Design team interview. We worked with the design team to explore design decisions related to course content and target audience, with particular reference to SRL phases and sub-processes.
- Data analysis and synthesis. We mapped components of this MOOC design against sub-processes of self-regulated learning.
Phase 2: October 2013 - February 2014.
The second phase examined the self-regulated learning behaviours of health professionals as they participate in the edX MOOC. We measured the SRL profiles of health professionals participating in the MOOC and selected those with high and low SRL scores to analyse their learning behaviours in more detail through semi-structured interviews. From this phase, we are producing a set of learner use cases describing different patterns of self-regulated learning behaviours, addressing RQ2 What self-regulated learning strategies and behaviours do professionals adopt? Phase 2 comprised three main activities:
- Learner survey. Research participants were recruited through an announcement on the course discussion board and course website. Study participants were invited to complete an SRL survey instrument during week 5 of the course. The survey instrument was adapted from one designed for our previous MOOC study (available from http://figshare.com/authors/Colin%20Milligan/100462) and is based on validated instruments devised by Pintrich, Smith, Garcia and McKeachie (1991) and others (full details at: http://figshare.com/articles/Survey_Instrument_SRL_in_Massive_Open_Online_Courses/767291). The SRLMQ instrument is available from figshare: http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-SRLMQ (PDF)
- Learner interviews. Health professionals who completed the survey were invited to take part in a telephone/skype interview. We interviewed 35 learners midway through the course (December 2013 – January 2014). As a prelude to the interview, research participants were asked to reflect on the impact that the MOOC has had/is likely to have on their professional practice. The interview explored this in more detail and probed their learning strategies and the networks they had drawn upon. The semi-structured interview script is available from figshare: http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-Interview (PDF).
- Data analysis and synthesis. All data collected in this phase will be analysed (using nVIVO and SPSS) to map learner behaviour patterns. Descriptive data summaries for the quantitative data set are available from http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-DataSummary (PDF).
Phase 3: February - March 2014.
In the final phase we integrated the findings of phases 1 and 2 to extend our understanding of the relationship between course/environment design and learners’ self-regulated learning behaviours. We examined how learner behaviour varies with each learner’s capacity to self-regulate their learning in the MOOC context, as measured through their SRL profile. As a complement to the scientific outputs from this study, the main deliverable is a set of recommendations for the design of MOOC learning platforms and courses for professional learning, addressing RQ3 How can MOOCs be designed to encourage professionals to self-regulate their learning? Phase 3 comprised two main activities:
- Data analysis. The data from Phases 1 and 2 were combined and analysed to identify misalignment between the design strategies applied to MOOCs and professionals’ self-regulated learning behaviours. This analysis is ongoing, while other analysis of learner behaviour in the MOOC has been submitted as a journal article. The findings were synthesised into a set of recommendations for the design of MOOCs intended for professional learning (see below). Draft recommendations are available from http://tinyurl.com/PL-MOOC-recommendations (PDF).
- Recommendations review (ongoing, April 2014). Recommendations will be presented to the design teams at Harvard and KCL for review. Feedback will be used to refine the recommendations prior to final release.