Feature-Based Analysis of Social Networking and Collaboration in MOOC

Feature-Based Analysis of Social Networking and Collaboration in MOOC

Jyoti Chauhan, Anita Goel
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJDET.2020040103
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The aim of this article is to get insight into the features of social networking and collaboration in a massive open online course (MOOC) platform. We performed a feature-based analysis of twelve popular MOOC platforms – seven proprietary and five open-source platforms. Our study reveals that there are: (1) Two ways to include social networking – in-course and external; and (2) Two ways to incorporate collaboration functionality – built-in tools and third-party tools. The functionality provided by third-party tools differs; so, the selection of the tool is a challenge. For a built-in tool of MOOC, there is a need to re-identify the features for including it in any other MOOC platform; (3) Different ways to integrate the same tool in platforms; and (4) Different features of the same tool supported by various platforms. The proposed feature list helps future MOOC providers and developers to include social networking and collaboration functionality by selection, in contrast to specifying them afresh; and prospective educators can compare and select platforms, accordingly.
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Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a popular way to deliver online education, globally. The courses offered as MOOC are open for unlimited (logically) participation and can be accessed from anywhere via the Internet. MOOC courses are delivered via MOOC platforms that are specially designed software with the required functionality to deliver the courses. There are proprietary platforms like Coursera and Udacity, and open-source platforms like, Open edX. Also, some popular Learning Management System (LMS) has been enhanced to offer MOOC, also called LMS-MOOC like, Sakai, Moodle, BlackBoard, and Canvas.

Due to the open and massive nature of MOOC, the learners belong to diverse profiles. Learners are from different countries and cultures, and, have different social, communication and domain-specific skills. There is a need to bridge the social gap among the learners. According to several researchers, (Khalil & Ebner, 2014; Muilenburg & Berge, 2005; Shah et al., 2018), the learners in MOOC face the problem of social isolation and limited interactivity. This results in loss of the learner’s engagement and lead to dropouts. In general, courses delivered as MOOC have a predefined structure defined by the course instructor. These courses follow the instructional based strategy, offering the learning material in the form of readings (text), video lectures, and the assessment activity. There is a need for the mechanism that can facilitates collaboration among the learners to shift their role from passive to active user, where they can collaborate with others, contribute new ideas and participate in knowledge generation.

MOOC supports the social-constructivist pedagogy of learning. For this, MOOC provides integrated technological support for social and collaborative learning. Several studies (Alario-Hoyos et al., 2013; Blom et al., 2013; Butcher et al., 2013; Hrastinski, 2008; Imran et al., 2016; Kayode, 2018) have stressed over the importance of social, connections (networking), and collaboration in online learning (MOOC), and, suggest benefits like, better learning outcomes and positive encouragement.

The social networking and collaboration functionality in MOOCs facilitates interaction among participants (instructor, learner) and helps them to learn in a collaborative environment. Here, the information is created by different activities of the learner, like, commenting, responding, updating and sharing. Such informal way of learning complements the traditional and structured way of learning. The inclusion of social networking and collaboration in MOOC changes the passive role of the learner from information consumer to an active user, by providing them the opportunity to create learning resource by active participation in the learning activities. It has resulted in a shift from teacher-centered learning to learner-centered learning, facilitating a more collaborative way to learn, considering interest, abilities and learning styles of the individual learner for the process of learning.

The social networking allows the learners to connect with other learners and build a network. Facebook1 and Twitter2 are commonly used social networks, used by learners to express their thoughts, opinions, and help them to connect. Here, learning emerges from connections among learners in a spontaneous way. The other benefit of forming connections is providing impetus and motivation for learners to persist in their learning (Kamel Boulos & Wheeler, 2007). Collaborative learning supports online learning goals by promoting creativity and critical thinking skills, sharing and reflecting knowledge and decision-making (Palloff & Pratt, 2003; Zygouris-Coe, 2019). Collaboration in MOOC helps the learner to establish online learning communities and bring the learners together to support peer learning. It facilitates the learners to work mutually on a single project to achieve a common learning goal. The learners enrolled in a course assist their peers, and enrich the course with discussions and interactions, such as, argumentation (Baker, 1994), knowledge building (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2003), mutual regulation (Blaye & Light, 1990), and positive conflict resolution (Doise & Mugny, 1984). Also, collaboration provides a way to the learner to interact with the instructor.

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