Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Learning online: Reflection, engagement and motivation; enhancing learner engagement in the MOOC environment (#105)

Leanne C. McCann 1 , Adrian Devey 1 , Amy Han 1 , Linda Kalejs 1 , Josephine Hook 1 , Barbara Yazbeck 1
  1. Monash University, Caufield East, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Early conversations between the Library’s Research and Learning staff and lead discipline academics in the development of Monash University’s inaugural MOOCs centred around the characteristics of successful online learners, and whether participants would bring these capabilities to the course. Pedagogical considerations of how to bridge these gaps, especially given the high attrition rates in the MOOC environment, led us to create an online skills self-assessment survey tool and skills development resources for the MOOC participants. As they enrolled into the MOOC, learners were invited to reflect on their readiness for study in this environment across a set of recognised skills that learners would need in order to complete the course successfully. (Andrews and Tynan, 2014; Stoter et al., 2014; Hart, 2012) Resources and strategies were made available for learners to develop their capacity in these key areas. Learners were also invited to complete an exit survey reflecting on their skills development. Our hypothesis is that learners who critically reflect on their capability and readiness for study in the MOOC environment, and are provided with resources and strategies to develop these skills, are more likely to stay engaged and satisfied, thus reducing attrition.

This paper reports on the experience of developing and implementing the reflective skills survey tool, triangulating these observations with a review of scholarly literature on the emergence of the digital learner and quantitative results from the first iteration of the surveys. Our initial data from this innovative practice suggests that the successful online learner is one who is self-motivated and focussed, and who can effectively manage their time and juggle competing commitments. More conclusive data on the implications of explicit skill development for retention of learners in the MOOC environment, and the transferability of these capabilities to lifelong learning, will be drawn from proposed future longitudinal studies in this area as our MOOC provider intends to include reflective skills surveys across all its courses.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

This paper addresses the sub-theme: “How can technology be used (on campuses, in industry placements, or online) to make learning more efficient, effective or accessible, and to positively impact retention, completion and employability?” Our research explores a model for a reflective approach to skills development for successful study in the MOOC environment that can be applied by other universities in their own MOOCs. We argue that by raising awareness of the key capabilities of successful digital learners, and by providing resources and strategies to develop these skills, MOOC participants learn more efficiently and effectively and thus are more likely to complete the course. These skills – such as placing a value on interactive and collaborative learning, interpersonal and communication skills, and self- direction and management, may then transfer to further study and more broadly to a strong academic self-concept that is vital for employability and lifelong learning. (Poce, 2014; Otten and Ohana, 2009)

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