Investigating Asynchronous Interaction Between MOOC Learners Through Forum Use and Peer Review

Investigating Asynchronous Interaction Between MOOC Learners Through Forum Use and Peer Review

Alexandros Chavdoulas (Hellenic Open University, Greece), Maria Pavlis Korres (Hellenic Open University, Greece & Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece) and Piera Leftheriotou (General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning, Greece & Hellenic Open University, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7473-6.ch005

Abstract

Designers, developers, and educators in an online course, where the risk of learners feeling isolated is of greater concern, should consider including learning activities that engage students with content and with each other in order to promote multiple ways of interaction and communication between learners and higher learners' engagement in the course. Interaction could be developed both in synchronous and asynchronous mode, in a direct or/and indirect (vicarious) way within the e-learning process. This chapter focuses on the development of asynchronous interaction between learners in a MOOC on personal development, provided in 2016 via a popular educational platform and how interaction affected the learning outcomes. The ways that learners asynchronously interact with each other through forum and peer review are identified and research proved that learners interact in a direct and indirect way and that the development of interaction returns multiple benefits to the learning process and outcome.
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Introduction

E-learning is an innovative and constantly evolving environment in the field of adult education. With the development of computers and the Internet, distance education is an educational approach which liberates the students from time and place limitations, offering flexible opportunities of individual and collective education (Moore & Tait, 2002), as an important proportion of teaching is conducted by someone who is at distance from the learner, both in place or/and in time (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). Sewart, Keegan and Holmberg (1988) suggest that in distance education a bidirectional interaction is developed between the participants, aiming to the highlighting of the pedagogic benefits of dialogue and to bridge the geographic distance between them.

More than a decade ago many theorists and researchers supported that e-learning is one of the fastest growing fields of learning and that its dynamic seemed capable of having a decisive impact on education in the years to come. Within this decade, a particularly popular way of offering educational programs are online courses delivered by professors from top universities addressed to any individual who chooses to enrol, named Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). As a result there are thousands and thousands of students signing up to these programs and a rapid growth of MOOC courses and platforms. But the fact of massive dropout rates is an issue of massive importance (Jordan, 2013; Kolowick, 2013). As completion rates of most MOOCs are less than 10% (Jordan, 2013), there is a lot of concern on the factors leading to this, and many researchers are questioning the effectiveness of ΜΟΟCs altogether.

In the literature it is mentioned that for the e-learning to be effective, the learning environment in which it takes place has to satisfy the needs of the adult learner, respect his/her characteristics, take into consideration the barriers that the adult learner meets along the way in an online environment and promote his/her active learning and participation (Pavlis Korres, Karalis, Leftheriotou, & Barriocanal, 2009).

Although e-learning offers solutions to significant problems arising from learning barriers of adult learners, such as the geographical distance and the cost of attendance, it also creates new problems. One of the basic problems is the isolation the learners may feel during their participation in an e-learning course (Muilenburg & Berge, 2005; Lewis & Abdul-Hamid, 2006; Ortiz-Rodriguez et al., 2005; Song & Singleton, 2004). The key to confront isolation is interaction, which could be developed both in synchronous and asynchronous mode, as well as in a direct or/and indirect (vicarious) way within the e-learning process (Pavlis Korres, 2015; Sutton, 2000). Designers, developers and educators in an online course, where the risk of learners feeling isolated is of greater concern, should consider including learning activities that engage students with content and with each other in order to promote multiple ways of interaction and communication between learners and higher learners’ engagement in the course (Dixson, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Forum (Threaded Discussion): In a MOOC environment forum /threaded discussion is an asynchronous online discussion, integrated as an instructional and communication tool in the course, where learners communicate in the form of posted messages.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): A usually free online course, available over the internet, open to anyone and potentially having a huge number of enrolled participants.

Peer Review: The assessment of one’s work or performance by one or more people of similar competence (peers). In a MOOC environment peer review refers to the process in which a written assignment is assessed, rated and feedback is offered on it, by other learners (peers).

Asynchronous Communication Mode: Asynchronous communication mode refers to participants’ interaction and communication that does not take place at real time and thus permits learners and educators to respond to each other at their own convenient time (e.g., electronic bulletin board, forum, threaded discussions, peer review, upvote, follow, etc.).

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