|Friends in MOOCs
My SOLE (Self-directed Online Learning Environments) research team (Meina Zhu, Minkyoung Kim, Shuya Xu, Najia Sabir, and Annisa Sari) and I just submitted a paper for review last week related to instructor personalization of MOOCs. In terms of the data for the study, we sent a survey to over 1,000 MOOC instructors last summer and received about 152 responses. Here is the title of that paper (unfortunately, I cannot share the paper at this point since it is in review...email me if you want a copy.):
Bonk, C. J., Zhu, M.,
Kim, M., Xu, S., Sabir, N., & Sari, A. (in review). Pushing toward a more personalized MOOC: Exploring instructor selected
activities, resources, and technologies for MOOC design and implementation.
One question that we asked was the following:
many of the participants from your most recent MOOC would you now consider a
I was interested in this question since I taught a MOOC for Blackboard (catalog) related to how to teach online exactly 5 years ago (wow...it has been 5 years already? Yes!). It was called "Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success." We used CourseSites from Blackboard. You still can enroll 5 years later.
In that course, I made many new friends, including people from Scotland, Belgium, Ukraine, Italy, Australia, South Africa, the United States, the UAE, Sweden, Macedonia, and other parts of the world. Friends in the USA included those from Alaska, Idaho, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, Kentucky, and so on. One of my MOOC participants, Paul Beaudoin, is an American composer, theorist, and author who was at Fitchburg State University at the time.
Paul performed extremely well in the course and
got to know and support many of his global peers. In fact, despite nearly 4,000
people enrolled, he and I became good friends. Paul was among my favorite
students in the course. During the course, Paul sent me an email asking me to look "under the
hood" at one of his own courses and give him some feedback. And
so I quickly explored it and found his activities to be highly
impressive. Not surprisingly, Paul later recognized by Blackboard with
an award for his unique and engaging online course ideas and activities.
Suffice to say, we became good friends. I have recommended him for a couple of awards and recognitions since then including a Fulbright experience a year later in Estonia which he was awarded. His proposal was titled:
“The Changing Face of Music and Education:
Technology, Creativity, and Inspiration,”
At the end of the MOOC, Paul said to me (which I have permission to share...see my testimonials):
“Many thanks for the work you have been sharing with us these last 4
weeks. While I was hesitant at first, I have come to love this MOOC and
look forward to it. Even better, is that I am implementing some of the
ideas I've learned these past few weeks in my Summer Survey of Music
class. I am now working on implementing other TEC-VARIETY ideas to bring
into the fold.
I have much better expectations for the outcomes of this class and with
the new techniques/strategies I have learned in the Instructional Ideas
and Technology Tools for Learning MOOC. I am inspired and open to
bringing my students a more engaging learning experience. Participating
in the Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success has
made it clear to me that my focus in life is one who is passionate about
Given the admittedly shaky start to my MOOC as the suite of tools Blackboard used were not designed for a MOOC, I was grateful for with all the positive comments when the MOOC was over. In fact, I was a tad overwhelmed. I now had dozens more people to connect to and share my research reports with. At the time, i promised the participants that my next book would be free and so it is. My "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online" is now free. It has had more than 100,000 downloads since it came out in 2014.
Giving away one's writing is one way to generate new friendships. Giving course design feedback is another. So is offering a free massive course. In terms of MOOCs, I think that the number of friendships made relate to the type or form of MOOC that you design. Is it an xMOOC (more traditional instructor led) or a cMOOC (more community and participant driven) or pMOOC (more project or product based) or some other type? One's goals and teaching approach or philosophy will certainly impact the number of new friendships made. As per the title of this blog post, "Making friends in MOOCs: It is No Fluke!"
Here is what we found in our survey research:
While the type of MOOC taught was deemed
important, we were also curious whether these instructors felt like they made
new friends as a result of teaching their MOOC(s) as it might be an indirect
sign of MOOC personalization and enhanced interaction with the participants.
However, when asked how many of the participants from their most recent MOOC
that they would now consider a friend, 115 (76.7%) of the 150 MOOC instructors
who responded to this question indicated none. Nearly one in five respondents
(n=29; 19.3%) made between one and five new friends. Only 6 respondents
(2.4%) made more than six friends from teaching their MOOC. In effect, despite
the huge enrollments, delivering a MOOC typically led to few new personal
friendships; a sign that they were more often taught as xMOOCs or self-paced
MOOCs and not more participant or community driven types of cMOOCs.
See figure above (we are using a line graph in our journal article). Over three-quarters of MOOC instructors make no friends at all when teaching the massive courses with tens of thousands of people. How can this be? Perhaps I have a more loose definition of friendship than most MOOC instructor. But clearly, most MOOC instructors are not involved in teaching such a massive class to make new friends. They are likely more focused on delivering content. We need to do some follow-up interviews to find out more. But it is an open area of research. Perhaps others will want to focus on the possible links between friendships made and retention, learning, satisfaction, or enrollment in additional MOOCs.
I am curious what others think. I am also interested if anyone knows of any additional research on this topic. Perhaps one of my MOOC friends knows.
Labels: Blackboard, Blackboard MOOC, friends, massive open online course, MOOC friends, MOOC pedagogy, MOOC research, MOOCs, MOOCs and Open Education