How learners participate in cMOOCs

Hybrid MOOCs, which have the social networks of cMOOCs and the platforms of xMOOCs, have the best completion and satisfaction rates. To design hybrid MOOCs, we need to better understand those two elements (how learners use tools in MOOCs to support their learning, and how they form networks). The authors of this paper investigated these elements by analyzing a 36-week cMOOC.

See also: The cMOOC analyzed in this paper is very similar to the ones analyzed by Kop, R. (2011) ‘The Challenges of Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks’. I think it is useful to look at these two articles side by side.

Wang, Z., Anderson, T., and Chen, L. (2018) ‘How Learners Participate in Connectivist Learning: An Analysis of the Interaction Traces from a cMOOC’, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, vol. 19, no. 1 [Online]. Available at


  1. Introduction
  2. Related work
    1. The development and innovation of cMOOCs
    2. cMOOCs participation
  3. Methodology
  4. Findings
    1. Technologies adopted by learners to support their learning
    2. Participation categories
    3. Social network structure formed in different spaces
    4. Typical participation pattern based on deep interactive topic
  5. Conclusion and discussion


MOOCs, xMOOCs, cMOOCs, and hybrids

MOOCs are massive open online courses.

xMOOCs are a type of MOOC. They are more commonly known than cMOOCs. They are usually structured over a fixed timeframe and have content stored in a centralized location. Knowledge is transmitted with video lessons, automatically graded quizzes, and games and simulations for learning activities and assessments. Learners interact on a course page or in designated areas within their learning management system (LMS).

cMOOCs (or, constructivist MOOCs) are usually unstructured and have decentralized content. cMOOCs give learners more agency but they can be confusing and overwhelming for people who are not used to this method. Learners work collaboratively to discover and learn. They contribute in various places, such as blogs, Twitter, wikis, YouTube, etc. They create their own personal learning environment (PLE) and personal learning network (PLN). According to this pedagogy, learning happens when people actively interact with each other and work collaboratively to generate content.

Hybrid MOOCs try to include the social networks of cMOOCs and the platforms of xMOOCs. These have higher completion rates and learner satisfaction rates. To design the best hybrid MOOCs, we need to better understand learners’ use of tools and how they form networks.

Technologies learners used to support their learning

The learners were encouraged to use a variety of technologies, and they also branched out and formed groups on platforms that weren’t originally encouraged. Roughly these were video hosting sites, blogs, source aggregation and sharing (SAS), wikis, and other:

List of specific applications and sites used on the Change 11 MOOC

(Wang et al.)

Each tool offers different affordances, and so together the wide range gave them ‘connectivity and social rapport, collaborative information discovery and sharing, content creation, knowledge and information aggregation, and content modification’ (Wang et al., 2018). In addition, there was a daily newsletter that gave a summary of participant activity.

Note: Although this paper was published in 2018, the cMOOC they analyzed was conducted from 2011-2012, which may be relevant when applying what they learned about technology.

In general, the tools that required the least cognitive engagement (such as the newsletter and Twitter) were adopted more than the ones that required more from the learner (such as crafting and responding to blog posts).

Four participation patterns

Other studies have identified different types of online participants; the authors of this paper have a Connectivist perspective and so their grouping reflects that approach.

Structures of social networks

The researchers used NodeXL to conduct social network analysis. They primarily looked at interactions (posts and comments) on the MOOC’s blog, Facebook group, and tweets that used the MOOC’s hashtag.They found that some people became centers of interactions, while others were more isolated; and some posts on blogs, Twitter, and the Facebook group attracted many comments while others did not. Sometimes the facilitators were central to the interactions, and other times some learners took on a more central role. (I don’t think anything mind-blowing was discovered here, or it wasn’t discussed in enough detail for me to see something unique.)

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