Tuesday 15 October 2013

Paper Review: Patterns of Engagement in Connectivist MOOCs

Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2013). Patterns of engagement in connectivist MOOCs. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 149-159.


This paper addresses two research questions:
  1. What patterns of engagement exist within the Change11 cMOOC course?
  2. What principal factors mediate this engagement?
The Change11 course was a large-scale cMOOC running from September 2011 to May 2012, organized and facilitated by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier. Over 35 weeks, participants were introduced to the work of a range of instructional design researchers and practitioners. Participants for the study were recruited via an invitation and study description included as the first item in The Daily e-mail sent to everyone registered for the Change11 cMOOC during Week 17 of the course. Thirty-five individuals from a total of 2,300 registered learners agreed to participate. From the initial sample of 35, 29 study participants were able to subsequently take part in a one-hour semi-structured interview via Skype, which explored various aspects of participation including motivation, goal-setting, and planning strategies, as well as exploring study participants' existing and emergent learning networks, their use of tools to support their learning, and their perceptions of their own participation in the course.

As a result of this study, three distinct types of engagement were recognized – active participation, lurking and passive participation. Active participants adapted well to the connectivist pedagogy of cMOOCs, maintaining active blogs and Twitter accounts, actively and regularly discussing the course. Lurkers were actively following the course but did not actively engage with other learners within it. This category of users is somewhat complex as it includes a spectrum of participants from those who lacked the confidence to participate, to those who were so confident they didn't need to participate in the course. What was common among them is that a cMOOC format works for them – they have the skills to leverage what they want from the course, on their terms. The final category of passive participants was characterized by their apparent frustration or dissatisfaction with the course.
In response to second research question, following factors were identified affecting engagement in this cMOOC: Confidence, Prior experience and Motivation.

MOOCs are classified as Connectivist MOOC (CMOOC) and Scalable MOOC (xMOOC). This paper specifically focuses on cMOOC. The authors have studied a specific cMOOC offering to make a point that confidence, prior experience and motivation determines whether the participant would be an active participant or lurker or passive participant.

While the paper has identified three types of engagement, lurking as a type should have been split over few types to have more cohesive categories. On another note, there seems to be possibility of identification of few more determinants of engagement with wider scope of study.

This paper makes an important contribution by identifying confidence, prior experience and motivation as determinants for engagement in cMOOC. This needs to be further validated.s

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