Investigating Students' Interactions with Discussion Forums, Facebook, and Twitter in a MOOC and their Perceptions

Investigating Students' Interactions with Discussion Forums, Facebook, and Twitter in a MOOC and their Perceptions

Min Liu (The University of Texas at Austin, USA), Jina Kang (The University of Texas at Austin, USA), Emily McKelroy (The University of Texas at Austin, USA), Jason Harron (The University of Texas at Austin, USA) and Sa Liu (The University of Texas at Austin, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0466-5.ch002
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Abstract

Given MOOCs being a relatively new format of online instruction, evidence-based research is needed to understand the role of MOOCs in changing the educational landscape, especially how students use the tools provided in MOOCs. This study investigated how students interacted with the discussion forum in a MOOC, and how they utilized Facebook and Twitter as an additional external space associated with this MOOC. Through both quantitative and qualitative data, the findings showed that MOOC participants found these tools to be helpful and can help create an active, collaborative, and participatory learning environment where they could share ideas and connect with other participants. The finding also indicated a poor interface design and low quality or low response to feedback can impact students' participation and perception of the usefulness of these tools. Results are discussed in the context.
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Background

Khan (2009) indicated that e-learning taking place in a distributed, open system extends beyond the confines of a traditional classroom or textbook to provide a space that is flexible and allows individuals to decide where and when they want to learn. Therefore, for e-learning to be successful, learners in these environments need immediate attention and feedback to continue their learning and not feel isolated, or they will drop out. Khan’s (2005) eight-dimensional e-learning framework provides a systematic way to review and assess the impact of technology-based initiatives, and offers a way to examine new online instructional formats such as MOOCs to create a meaningful learning environment. Four factors of this framework — interface design, resource support, pedagogical, and ethical — are particularly relevant to this study. According to the framework, the interface design refers to the overall look and feel of the Learning Management Systems (LMS), including content design, navigation, and usability. The resource dimension examines both the technical and human resources support needed to create meaningful and successful online learning environments, including digital libraries, online tutorials, newsletters, journals, podcasts, and FAQs. The pedagogical dimension includes issues related to teaching and learning such as the design approach and instructional strategies. Creating a student-centered environment that allows individuals to take control of their learning can help students achieve their own learning goals. Additionally, the use of multiple tools and instructional activities can also help facilitate learning for these individuals. One example of this is the use of a discussion forum in online instruction. According to Khan (2005), “A well-designed discussion forum in an e-learning course can create an active, interactive, and participatory learning environment” (p. 192). Khan also suggested that creating an online space that encourages meaningful engagement and interaction with peers, instructors, or online resources further supports students’ learning. The ethical dimension addresses the geographical and diversity of the students (Khan, 2005).

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