NIDL delegation visits China

In June 2016, a small DCU delegation visited China as part of an externally funded collaborative research project with the Big Data Centre for Technology Mediated Education at Beijing Normal University. The project known as BigEdData is exploring how the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement is being represented through social media. More specifically, the project involves critical discourse analysis relating to the discourses playing out in social media such as Twitter and who is engaging in them. The study is situated within a wider critique of actor-agency and the notion of power and politics in discourses of social media and in learning.


A variety of network and social analyses will be employed in the empirical analyses to model the actors and their characteristics within the dataset. The dataset was created by downloading tweets from public twitter in 2015 using #MOOC and the keyword MOOC as an organizational and selection filter. Research on the proliferation of articles and news stories relating to MOOCs in traditional and online media has been conducted by a number of authors, including a team in the NIDL.

During the visit to Beijing Normal University several talks and more formal presentations were offered on a range of topics, including the one above on the messy construct of learning analytics.  A preliminary paper on the BigEdData project was presented at the EDEN conference in Budapest in June, as outlined in the slide-deck below. Further presentations are planned over the course of 2016.


Follow up on National MOOC Symposium

A recent report shows that the number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) being offered by institutions, and the intention to develop more, is continuing to increase throughout Europe (Jansen & Schuwer, 2015). And last week around 350 delegates from around the world participated in the third European MOOC Summit in Mons, Belgium.


On Thursday and Friday, and continuing over the weekend, the Higher Education, Research, and Culture in European Society (HERCULES) expert group of the Academia Europaea (AE) hosted a special Symposium in Stockholm at the Wenner-Gren Centre exploring new and emerging models of teaching and learning. A major focus of this event was on MOOCs. The Symposium attracted many of the leading researchers and thought leaders in the area in Europe and the United States, along with representatiives from countries as far as China and Japan.

While the future of the MOOC is uncertain, we should not underestimate both the local and global impact that the Internet, and online learning more specifcially, is having on the Higher Education sector. As Amara’s Law reminds us, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

The level of interest that MOOCs have attracted from media, politicians and senior academic leaders throughout the world is unprecedented in recent times. Arguably, no other educational innovation in the past century has received the same level of media attention and ground swell of interest from millions of people expressing their willingness to explore, discover and learn through new technology. Of course, the hype of the MOOC movement must be unpacked from the hope.

Therefore, at the beginning of May, the National MOOC Symposium was an effort by the NIDL to facilitate more critical discussion about some of the claims, counter-claims and unresolved debates surrounding the rapid growth of MOOCs, with a particular focus on the Irish context. It is important to acknowledge the Symposium was supported with funding from two European projects which are designed to mature our understanding of the potential of new models of open and online education.

Many of the presentations (slides and videos) from the National MOOC Symposium are now available on the NIDL website. Highlights include the two keynote speakers, Professor Mike Sharples and Dr Darco Jensen, who provide contrasting perspectives on major MOOC initiatives underway in the UK, US and Europe. Mike provides the Academic Lead of FutureLearn and Darco is the lead researcher in several European funded Open Education initiatives.

Other speakers over the course of the day provided examples of local initiatives, such as presentations from IT Silgo and Trinity College Dublin (TCD). An analysis of the competing and co-existing institutional drivers behind MOOCs may be of wider interest along with a study we have underway in the NIDL of how MOOCs have been presented in the Irish Media. We look forward to hosting similar events and symposia in the future in areas of particular interest.