Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Visual self-directed informal learning in FutureLearn MOOC #mooc @futureLearn

Finishing a Phd can be a slow process for some (on the positive side, I have been told by Bart Rienties that it is slower for holistic, creative thinkers as they tend to work in peaks... so with some slack in between). Anyway, I am now on iteration Z of my quest to build a visual to portray the self-directed informal learning as it is described by experienced, adult, online learners engaged in MOOC of the FutureLearn type. The visual is a way to grasp what all the findings mean, how they relate to one another, and how I can structure the findings in a way that enables the reader of my thesis to see where I am going.

The findings of my study were obtained from 52 course participants, involved in 3 FutureLearn courses, filling in Learning logs during their MOOC experience and getting interviewed on specific questions. To analyse the data I used a grounded theory approach, more specifically, I constructed a grounded theory following Charmaz's (2014) latest guidelines and pointers (while adding some of mine as well).

While sifting through the data, I found that the learning ecology of FutureLearn MOOC could be represented in 5 learning elements to embrace the whole online learning ecology: technology, context, learner characteristics, social versus individual learning, and organising learning. Admittedly, any learning could be covered by these 5 learning elements. But when focusing on FutureLearn courses, the data from the experienced, online learners provided some specific actions describing their informal, self-directed learning inside of these courses. This makes it possible to some kind of comparison to self-directed, informal learning in FutureLearn MOOC versus learning in classic online courses.
The information inside of the second circle is related to FutureLearn MOOC, outside of the second circle are some online course elements.

While going through the data numerous times (creating research vertigo in my head), I also got the impression that the key inhibitors or enablers of self-directed, informal learning are: motivation and learning goals. These two elements were most frequently mentioned in active relation to each of the 5 learning elements covering the online learning ecology. Which is why I put motivation and learning goals at the center of the 5 learning elements. The reason why I put them at the center are many, but briefly: if there is no (intrinsic) motivation, the learner does not even start to register in MOOC. Once registered, it is motivation (in most cases intrinsic motivation) which keeps them wanting to learn more (which is not the same as following all the content of the MOOC, but simply absorbing that content which is relevant to the learner). If the learning goal/s are not felt as being benefited by the MOOC, learners stop engaging in the MOOC. The learning goals (which can be professionally or personally driven, or both for those happy with their jobs) are what make learners move above and beyond: they will solve tech problems, they will connect to others, they will overcome lack of confidence, they will organise their learning against any time constraints they encounter.

With this visual drawn... I am going to rewrite findings, and add discussions to get my final chapter ready... that is the plan... yes, plan. *inner voice: "Please brain help this poor lass on getting all the words on paper. Will provide extra chocolate"*.