G. Matkin

University of California, Irvine (UNITED STATES)
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) present new and unique opportunities to understand how people learn across a broad spectrum of educational mediums. MOOCs cross the boundaries between formal and informal learning in an unprecedented way, with each MOOC course offering opportunities for researchers to study how people select and engage with learning resources. The very large numbers of students in most MOOCS, coming as they do from many different countries and educational backgrounds, provide statistical validity that most learning research lacks due to highly restricted populations and narrowly focused research objects.

For instance, MOOCs can offer alternative content and learning treatments to similar populations in the same course allowing for “A-B” testing that is designed to measure the relative effectiveness of learning within defined populations drawn from the same course. Extensive MOOC click-stream data, combined with sophisticated machine learning algorithms, has the potential to reveal deep patterns in student learning and allow instructors to get high level feedback on the efficacy of their courses’ learning assets and optimally sequence and present instructional resources to maximize learning. This click-stream data also can be used to create and improve automated feedback systems that are designed to provide learners with timely educational instructions specific to their individual misconceptions.

Further, MOOCs also offer the opportunity for researchers to study how systems and institutions in higher education react to potentially disruptive change. Patterns of adoption and rejection reveal where innovation actually originates, how it spreads, where, and how it persists or dies. Another related avenue for MOOC research is towards identifying the optimal learning settings. Many institutions are experimenting with using MOOC course assets in parallel with on-ground, campus-based instruction. Research with careful controls for confounding factors will allow us to investigate learning environments at a scale not previously possible in our educational system.

While expansive opportunities exist for MOOCs to reveal important and useful information in many realms, this research is in its infancy. Currently, few organizations are entering into long-term research programs and even fewer seeking to help summarize and disseminate MOOC research.

This presentation begins with a brief summary of the categories (illustrated by examples) of MOOC research. It then examines how MOOC research is being organized around the world. Finally, this presentation will forecast the directions MOOC research will take, how such research addresses the important questions that only MOOCs can answer, the barriers to achieving the highest potential the research, and how MOOC suppliers can contribute to and use the vast store of information that will come from open and online courses.