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Networked Learning 2016

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Tuesday, May 10 • 12:15pm - 12:25pm
Third Spaces of Learning in Open Courses: Findings from an Interpretive Case Study

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In this case study, I present an interpretive exploration of five open participants' learning experiences in a massive open online course (MOOC), which was offered by a higher education institute in the United States as a general education course in research writing. There were two types of enrolment in the course: formal (students who enrolled in the course for credit, six sections) and informal (open participants). Open participants had access to the public activities of the learning community, but they did not receive any academic certification, evaluation, or grading from the instructors.Blogging was central to all educational activity in the course. Learners and instructors openly blogged during the course and beyond in response to the class assignments and on other areas of interest. In this study, participant blogs are conceptualized as social spaces created by a multitude of interactions (e.g., with content, instructors, other learners, the imagined audience). These spaces were the starting point for the researcher to examine five open participants’ learning activities in the course. Primary data collection methods included interviews, participant observations, and document and artefact analysis. Thematic analysis of data illustrates how open participants participated in the course in multifaceted and unique ways and created third spaces of learning—spaces that are neither informal nor formal and that create opportunities for learning to occur in emergent and authentic ways (Cronin, 2014; Gutierrez, Rymes, & Larson, 1995). These spaces were possible because learners' informal identities, skills, and networks were welcomed into formal learning and capitalized on as important learning resources.I present two typologies that point to the self-directed and authentic nature of open participation within those spaces: (1) open participants created unique course histories through their blogs, (2) open participants did not follow the formal learning path. These findings suggest that the traditional markers of success in formal education (e.g., sustained engagement, course completion, directly measurable outcome) might be insufficient to frame participants’ involvement in open online courses. The diversity in learner goals and roles calls for a need to shift the focus of open online courses from the end product to the learning process and challenges formal narratives of success and failure in open online courses.


Tuesday May 10, 2016 12:15pm - 12:25pm
Bowland 2 Lancaster House Hotel

Attendees (7)