Third Learning Spaces in Open Online Courses: Findings from an Interpretive Case Study

Persistent link to this item

Statistics
View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Title

Third Learning Spaces in Open Online Courses: Findings from an Interpretive Case Study

Published Date

2016-05

Publisher

Type

Thesis or Dissertation

Abstract

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 enrollment 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. 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 sources were participant blogs, semi- structured interviews, and a case study journal with analytic reflections. Secondary data sources included participant observations, course documents and artifacts (e.g. the syllabus, course videos), and the course Twitter feed. 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 or 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 three 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, (3) instances of meaningful learning were visible at different times in the course and beyond. These findings led me to strongly align with scholars who suggest that the traditional markers of success in formal education (e.g., sustained engagement, course completion, directly measurable outcome) are 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. I particularly highlight the contextual and shifting nature of openness and argue that it is crucial for learners to be aware of and develop open literacies, which I define as the skills and attitudes needed for successfully navigating and participating in open online spaces. The three design principles I offer—(1) give voice to the authentic self, (2) recognize the contextual nature of openness, and (3) be cognizant of multiple layers of digital literacies, such as open and networked literacies—might be of interest to anyone interested in designing open online courses as spaces for individual and collective dialogue.

Description

University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2016. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Cassandra Scharber. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 160 pages.

Related to

Replaces

License

Collections

Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation


Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.