By Carl Straumsheim
Massive open online course providers are collecting troves of data about their students, but what good is it if researchers can’t use the information?
The MOOC Research Initiative formally released its results on Monday, six months after researchers met in Arlington, Texas, to brief one another on initial findings. The body of research — 22 projects examining everything from how social networks form in MOOCs to how the courses can be used for remedial education — can perhaps best be described as the first chapter of MOOC research, confirming some widely held beliefs about the medium while casting doubt on others.
Common to many of the projects, however, were the difficulties of working with MOOC data.
“It’s a huge issue,” said John Whitmer, program manager of academic technology and analytics in the Office of the Chancellor at the California State University System. “We spent about 80 to 90 percent of our time on fundamental data transformation.”
MOOC providers, Whitmer said, have focused on supporting internal research or creating analytics tools to benefit MOOC instructors. “They have not paid attention to this kind of nebulous interested research community — and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing,” he said. “They have to focus their resources how they want.”
Whitmer gave the MOOC provider Coursera credit for making data available as exportable tables, but said his team still needed to spend more grant money than initially planned to convert the data into a useful format. “It’s like saying you can build a house from iron ore and trees,” he said.
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/06/10/after-grappling-data-mooc-research-initiative-participants-release-results ]