Papers at EMOOCs 2017 Conference

This year’s 5th EMOOC conference (or known in full as the European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit) was held in Madrid (22-26 May, 2017). Once again the conference featured a very strong line up of keynote speakers, including Sir Timothy O’She from the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Eamon Costello represented the NIDL at the conference and presented two jointly authored papers on work continuing in the area of MOOCs. Both papers appear in the post conference book published by Springer.

The first paper described the Head Start Online initiative under the leadership of Dr James Brunton. Entitled “Giving Flexible Learners a Head Start on Higher Education: Designing and Implementing a Pre-induction Socialisation MOOC” the presentation outlined our initial pilot course and the plans we have for future developments in this important area.

978-3-319-59044-8.jpgThe second research paper extended our analysis of the discourses associated with MOOCs as represented through social media. Entitled “#MOOC Friends and Followers: An Analysis of Twitter Hashtag Networks” the research investigates through the lens of actors and agency the different agendas playing out in the MOOC discourse through Twitter.

Despite less attention these days in the popular media, the conference reinforced the view that MOOCs are here to stay and they will continue to evolve over the next few years with a distinctive European flavour. The NIDL intends to shape the development of MOOCs through further developments in this area (more news to come) but unlike most other institutions our interest is driven by a strong innovation driver rather than simply the desire to raise the international profile of the university.

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.