Owner: Terry Anderson
Group members: 35
The Canadian Initiative for Distance Education Research (CIDER) is a research initiative of the Centre for Distance Education, Canada's largest graduate and professional distance education programming provider, at Athabasca University, Canada's Open University.
CIDER sponsors a variety of professional development activities designed to increase the quantity and quality of distance education research. CIDER's professional development scope is broad, ranging from learning and teaching application, issues of finance and access, the strategic use of technology in distance education settings, and other factors that influence distance education in Canada.
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One notable ‘disruptive’ impact of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has been an increased public discussion of online education. While much debate over the potential and challenges of MOOCs has taken place online confined largely to niche communities of practitioners and advocates, the rise of corporate ‘xMOOC’ ventures such as Coursera, edX and Udacity has prompted popular mass media interest at levels not seen with previous educational innovations. This article addresses this important societal outcome of the recent emergence of MOOCs as an educational form by examining the popular discursive construction of MOOCs over the past 24 months within mainstream news media sources in United States, Australia and the UK. In particular, we provide a critical account of what has been an important phase in the history of educational technology—detailing a period when popular discussion of MOOCs has far outweighed actual use/participation. We argue that a critical analysis of MOOC discourse throughout the past two years highlights broader societal struggles over education and digital technology—capturing a significant moment before these debates subside with the anticipated normalization and assimilation of MOOCs into educational practice. This analysis also sheds light on the influences underpinning how many people perceive MOOCs thereby leading to a better understanding of acceptance/adoption and rejection/resistance amongst various professional and popular publics.
A recent phenomenon in the MOOC space has been the development of courses tailored to educators serving in K-12 settings. MOOCs, particularly as a form of educator professional development, face a number of challenges. Academics, as well as pundits from traditional and new media, have raised a number of concerns about MOOCs, including the lack of instructional and social supports. It is an assumption of this study that challenges arising form this problem of scale can be addressed by leveraging these massive numbers to develop robust online learning communities. This mixed-methods case study addresses critical gaps in the literature and issues of peer support in MOOCs through an examination of the characteristics, mechanisms, and outcomes of peer networks. Findings from this study demonstrate that even with technology as basic as a discussion forum, MOOCs can be leveraged to foster these networks and facilitate peer-supported learning. Although this study was limited to two unique cases along the wide spectrum of MOOCs, the methods applied provide other researchers with an approach for better understanding the dynamic process of peer supported learning in MOOCs.
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