Are MOOCs Working for Us? (Part 2)

02 Mar

By Kristen Eshleman

This post is the second in a four-part series on MOOC research at Davidson College. We began with “why,” laying out the rationale for leading with a qualitative and residentially focused study. Attending to Davidson students’ learning experiences and designing hybrid education has been a primary goal of our research efforts.

We continue here with “how”, describing the collaborative design process that is shaping our evolving philosophy on networked research. Our design process centers on the following question:

How might networked research efforts help higher education respond to the rapid pace of technological change and the evolving needs of modern learners?

A DesignJam Approach to Our Research
For our MOOC experiment, we chose a design process that would harness the power of collaboration. As we uncovered in a 2014 gathering at UT-Arlington, collaboration drives innovative thinking about the potential for networks within and among higher ed institutions. We settled on a similar process that leverages the potential for new networks to increase our individual capacity for delivering and researching large-scale learning.

Davidson College possesses neither a dedicated research staff nor a Graduate School of Education where learning research might naturally occur in larger institutions. However, constraints breed creativity, and small liberal arts schools with limited resources are accustomed to these challenges as well as designing innovative approaches to amplify capabilities.

To aid us in designing good educational research questions, we reached out to the orchestrators of some of the best models for qualitative research: Amy Collier and George Veletsianos. On the heels of a presentation at the ELI 2014 conference and a subsequent conversation at SXSWEdu, we asked them to collaborate with us in forming a DesignJam for the DavidsonX study. Our small sample size and a student body versed in reflective practice made Davidson an ideal qualitative case study.

We kicked off the collaboration with a two hour jam session aimed at narrowing our research questions and discussing best practices for gathering the data. The Davidson team met face to face, while the rest of the team joined via web conference. We recorded everything using Google Docs, and continued iterating on these docs asynchronously once the research focus became clear. Below is a graphical representation of our DesignJam team – where we reside and the expertise we contributed. A subset will continue with the analysis:

A map of the U.S. that diagrams how MOOC experiment is impacting residential teaching and learning.

The goal of the DesignJam was to bring together diverse perspectives to the questions posed for research. More information on the design of the study can be found on our DavidsonX blog, where we welcome suggestions for participation on future iterations.

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Best Practices


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