By Steve Kolowich
Arlington, Tex. — Dozens of higher-education researchers convened here last week, in the midst of a snowstorm, to talk about a tsunami.
Massive open online courses have been a hot topic at higher-education conferences for about two years. But the objective of the MOOC Research Initiative Conference, which brought together dozens of researchers from universities involved in MOOCs, was to move beyond the hype and try to begin sorting out what, exactly, the courses might mean for various parts of higher education.
The literature on MOOCs so far has been largely limited to articles in the popular media, which tend to suggest, in general terms, that traditional courses “would be replaced by MOOCs, transformed by MOOCs, there would be a tsunami, there would be all these natural-disaster terms,” said Bonnie Stewart, a writer and doctoral student at the University of Prince Edward Island.
Practitioners of higher education, meanwhile, tend to talk, in less dramatic terms, about “using MOOCs in ways that fit the purposes of our specific institutions,” she said. Those conversations require serious research.
The MOOC Research Initiative, which is bankrolled by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to create that more serious literature. The initiative has given researchers $10,000 to $25,000 each to collect and analyze data from MOOCs. Eventually those research projects will turn into papers, the best of which will appear next spring in an issue of The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, a peer-reviewed journal.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/researchers-push-mooc-conversation-beyond-tsunami-metaphors/48911 ]