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Student Experiences in Open, Online Learning

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Student Experiences in Open, Online Learning


How do learners experience open, online learning? Researchers and digital learning providers seasonally use learning analytics and big data to examine learner behaviors, activities, and actions. Such methods are prevelant in studies focusing on massive open online courses, otherwise known as MOOCs; however, very few research studies seek to develop – qualitative – understanding of individuals experiences with open online learning. The free e-book, Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open, Online Learning, was created in 2013 to bring to light students experiences. It was created enable participants in open online courses to share, in their own words, what it was like to participate in this new educational landscape. It was created to share and amplify student voices; to provide a space for students to share their experiences at a time when certain voices were crowded out by research about students. Instead of turning students into figures and statistics, such as, for example a study that notes that “90% dropped out” or “82% complete the first two assignments,” the book came to tell the students detailed stories of learning. The book consists of chapters from 10 student authors. Using journal reflection they wrote while participating in MOOCs for two-month period, the students seek the answer the following questions: What are my experiences with various forms of open online learning? What is it like to participate in open online learning? I invite you to explore each chapter and learn first-hand what the students are writing. On a thematic level though, this book provides two critical findings: First, it shows that the realities of open online learning are different than the hopes of open online learning. There’s a disconnect between reality and promise. Students’ experiences are not uniform, nor straightforward. For example, some learners describe their online learning experiences as “meaningful and empowering”; whereas, others describe them as “mundane” or “simply mediocre.” Second, while this book starts to provide a greater understanding of online learning, current research only provides a partial and complete picture of what it means to learn online. The book provides the following recommendation to instructors, administrators, learning designers, developers, and researchers. Focus on the DESIGN of open online learning, specifically design effective, engaging, challenging, participatory, and caring personal learning environments. Use pedagogical AND technological affordances to foster learning. Understand that learning experiences in traditional online education may differ from those of learners in open online learning environments. We need to recognize the uniqueness of each context, in order to improve learning in each context. We hope this collection of peer-reviewed student essays offer further insight to a shared understanding of what it means to teach and learn in today’s emerging learning environments. It’s imperative that we involve learners in the conversation, decisions, and planning surrounding education. Thanks a lot for tuning in! If you like this please share with your friends, colleagues, and students.

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