Podcast with Professor Allison Littlejohn is now live.

Issued: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:02:00 BST

In the latest instalment, Professor Allison Littlejohn, Dean of Learning of Teaching discusses her publication Reconceptualising Learning in the Digital Age: The [un]democratising potential of MOOCs.  This book situates Massive Open Online Courses and open learning within a broader educational, economic and social context. It raises questions regarding whether Massive Open Online Courses effectively address demands to open up access to education by triggering a new education order, or merely represent reactionary and unimaginative responses to those demands.  Co authored with Dr Nina Hood, University of Auckland, available from SpringerBriefs in Open and Distance Education. Singapore: Springer. https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9789811088926

Topic of research

How people learn online, focusing on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs have become popular in recent years. The term MOOC has become synonymous with almost any open, online learning. In 2018 Nina Hood, University of Auckland, and I published a book: Reconceptualising Learning in the Digital Age: the [un]democtratising potential of MOOCs. Our research identifies specific tensions that exemplify MOOCs and characterise open, online learning in general. This work was funded partly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Commonwealth of Learning.

What’s new in this piece

First, MOOCs have the potential to democratise education. However, we provide evidence that, by highlighting prominent universities and organisations, MOOCs reinforce the values and extend the influence of the privileged. Second, MOOCs have the potential to disrupt education, yet often are modelled on the traditions of conventional education. An important feature of MOOCs is to open access to learning for everyone, but they are designed in ways that require learners to regulate their own learning. We provide evidence that not everyone has the capability to learn independently in a MOOC. Third, we evidence that data used to measure progress in open, online platforms may provide a reductionist view of learner development. Future analytics platforms and tools for open, online learning should capture data in ways that provide holistic understanding of the learners’ intentions and scaffolds to support them in achieving their goals.

In a nutshell

By viewing courses and credentials as products to sell to ‘consumer’ students, we are over-simplifying the idea of learning as a means to transform human thinking and practice.  

More emphasis should be placed on Governments to make sure all citizens have the ability to regulate their learning. Until this happens, all forms of open, online learning will benefit those who can learn, rather than serving everyone.


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