MOOC Research Initiative

University of Toronto’s leadership in the area of evaluation of the pedagogical design potential of MOOCs will be extended as a result of recently announced funding for three additional research studies. The University of Toronto is a successful applicant of a competitive grant competition run by Athabasca University (Principal Investigator: George Siemens). This project, the MOOC Research Initiative, will advance understanding of the role of MOOCs in the education sector and how emerging models of learning will influence traditional education.   The MOOC Research Initiative is a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The University of Toronto projects are among 28 proposals selected in a rigorous international competition. The research teams’ activity will commence immediately, with each expected to provide an interim report at the MRI research conference scheduled in December and to target completion by March 2014. Open Utoronto will provide support to the data collection and analysis through access to our institutional repository of both Coursera and EdX data extracts. See MOOC Research and Evaluation, or contact for more information.

More detail about the research projects below:

Beyond and Between “Traditional” MOOCs: Agile and Just-in-Time Learning

Jennifer Campbell, Alison Gibbs, Laurie Harrison, Stian Haklev – $25,000 (Dept. of Computer Science and Dept. of Statistics – FAS

This study will compare the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as active, instructor-led, open-facilitated courses with their use as archived, self-directed learning resources.  Having offered three popular introductory MOOCs in computer programming and statistics, we have discovered that after an open facilitated course cohort has progressed through scaffolded activities and graded assessment, many learners persist in the course and new registrants continue to join the archived course.  This study will investigate the potential and purpose of archived MOOCs as learning tools for beyond and between scheduled instructor-led sessions.  In order to understand potential differentiated usage patterns and learning outcomes, learner demographics, motivations, activities and completion, and levels of satisfaction will be examined and compared across the two models of content delivery.

Hatch, match, and dispatch: Examining the relationship between student intent, expectations, behaviours and outcomes in six Coursera MOOCs at the University of Toronto

Carol Rolheiser, Laurie Harrison, Stian Haklev, Chris Teplovs – $25,000 (Curriculum Teaching and Learning – OISE)

To date, faculty at the University of Toronto have offered more than half a dozen Coursera MOOCs. These MOOCs demonstrate the diversity of topics, disciplines, and teaching approaches that characterize the rich tapestry of academic life at the university. Early reflections on the experience of instructors and students have led us to consider the interplay of intent and expectations (corresponding to the “hatch” aspect of the proposal title), behaviour, and outcomes (“dispatch” in the proposal title) more closely. Our primary goal in the proposed research is to use survey, clickstream, and assessment outcome data from the MOOCs that have been offered to understand how those dimensions interact (the “match” in the proposal title). As well, the research project will focus on adaptation of analytic methods particular to large MOOC data sets and documentation of those methods.

Secondary School Students and MOOC’s: A Comparison between Independent MOOC Participation and Blended Learning

Dilip Soman, Rosemary Evans, Christopher Federico, Laurie Harrison, – $17,000 (Rotman School of Management)

The Behavioural Economics MOOC offered by the University of Toronto on the edX platform will be taken by a group of secondary school students from the University of Toronto Schools who are studying Economics. The class will consist of students who are 15-17 years of age, and the course they are enrolled in is a grade 12, university preparatory Economics course. The focus of the research will be to compare secondary school student achievement of learning outcomes and levels of student engagement and persistence under two models of instruction:

  1. through independent engagement with a MOOC
  2. through a blended model involving teacher support and engagement with a MOOC