A research agenda on MOOCS: the perspective of social sciences

Main Article Content

Rosanna De Rosa


Originated to help academic institutions innovate pedagogical models, MOOCs are taking different routes, some of them marked by public policies, others by market strategies. Questioning the MOOC phenomenon according only to pedagogies and learning theories means, however, underestimating their impact on the evolution of educational systems. This article intends to define a research agenda into the social impact of MOOCs, in order to reflect on changes in educational policies, on academic culture, and on learning measurement. For this reason we suggest focusing attention on three features of MOOC phenomenology: MOOCs as a social movement - an active policy initiative to promote greater democratization of education; MOOCs as a medium and a cultural artifact (mediated texts, videos, interface, platform functionalities) able to convey learning to distant learners; and, lastly, MOOCs as a measurement - in other words as instrumentation (i.e. learning statements, analytics, algorithms, visualizion tools, dashboards etc.) that allow you to monitor, analyze and optimize the effectiveness of online teaching and learning. We also highlight their limits in these regards.

Article Details

Articles - General topics
Author Biography

Rosanna De Rosa, University of Naples Federico II

Rosanna De Rosa is assistant professor at the University of Naples Federico II where she teaches Public and Political Communication. As an EU project Coordinator, she has been involved in the creation of a pan-European MOOC platform, with a special focus on learning analytics (www.europeanmooces.eu). Among her publications, Cittadini digitali. L’agire politico al tempo dei Social Media (Apogeo 2013), and Governing by data: some considerations on the role of analytics in education (2017), in Lauro C. et al (eds), Data Science and Social Research - Epistemology, Methods, Technology and Applications, Springer.


Agarwal, A. (2013, June 15). Online Universities: it's time for teachers to join the revolution. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/jun/15/university-education-online-mooc

Allen, I. E. & Seaman, J. (2015). Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group. Retrieved from onlinelearningsurvey.com

Aragona, B., & De Rosa, R. (2018). Policy making at the time of big data. Datascape, datasphere, data culture. AIS Journal of Sociology, 11 (April), 173-187. doi: 10.1485/AIS_2018/11_3434226

Brooks, D. (2012, May 3). The Campus Tsunami. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/opinion/brooks-the-campus-tsunami.html

Bull, D. (2013). From Ripple to Tsunami: The Possible Impact of MOOCs on Higher Education. DEQuarterly, 201(12), 10-11.

Open Society Foundation (2007). Cape Town Open Education Declaration. Retrieved from http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read-the-declaration

Calise, M., De Rosa, R., & Marín, X. (2010). Electronic Publishing, Knowledge Sharing and Open Access: A New Environment for Political Science. European Political Science, 9 (Suppl 1), 50-60. doi: 10.1057/eps.2010.35

Chatti, M. A., Lukarov, V., Thüs, H., Muslim, A., Yousef, A. M. F., Wahid, … Schroeder, U. (2014). Learning Analytics: Challenges and Future Research Directions. Eleed, 10. Retrieved from https://eleed.campussource.de/archive/10/4035/

Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2008). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Clarke, R. (1994). The digital persona and its application to data Surveillance. The Information Society, 10, 77-92. doi: 10.1080/01972243.1994.9960160

Coates K. (2013). The re-invention of the academy: how technologically mediated learning will – and will not – transform advanced education. In S.K.S. Cheung, J. Fong, W. Fong, F.L. Wang, L.F Kwok (eds), Hybrid Learning and Continuing Education, (1-9). ICHL 2013. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 8038. Berlin, Heidelberg, DE: Springer.

Couldry, N., & Hepp, A. (2016). The Mediated Construction of Reality. New York, NY: Polity Press.

Daniel, J. (2012). Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 3. doi: 10.5334/2012-18

De Rosa, R. (2017). Governing by data: some considerations on the role of analytics in education. In C. Lauro, E. Amaturo, B. Aragona et al. (Eds.), Data Science and Social Research - Epistemology, Methods, Technology and Applications (pp 67-77). Cham, CH: Springer International.

De Rosa, R., & Bogliolo, A. (2016). Changing Mindset in School teachers. The Strange Case of the Italian national Plan for Digital School and the h-Mooc on Coding. In Edulearn16 proceedings (pp. 4191-4199). Valencia, SP: IATED publisher. doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016

De Rosa, R., & Reda, V. (2013). La rivoluzione dei MOOCs: un'analisi di policy framework su scala europea. LEA, 2, 594-631. doi: 10.13128/LEA-1824-484x-13850

Dhawal, S. (2015). By The Numbers, MOOCs in 2015. Class Central Report 2015. Retrieved from https://www.class-central.com/

Dhawal, S. (2016). By The Numbers, MOOCs in 2016. Class Central Report 2016. Retrieved from https://www.class-central.com/

Dillenbourg, P. (2013). MOOCs in Europe: An overview. Presentation at eMOOCS European Stakeholder Summit, Lausanne 2013. Retrieved from http://www.aca-secretariat.be/fileadmin/aca_docs/images/members/Karl_Aberer.pdf

Downes, S. (2008). Places to Go: Connectivism & Connective Knowledge. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 5 (1), Article 6. Retrieved from http://nsuworks.nova.edu/innovate/vol5/iss1/6

Educause (2012). What campus leaders need to know about MOOCs. An EDUCAUSE Executive Briefing. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/resources/2012/12/what-campus-leaders-need-to-know-about-moocs

Ferguson, R. (2012). The state of learning analytics in 2012: A review and future challenges. Knowledge Media Institute, Technical Report, KMI-2012, 1.

Ferguson, R. (2014). Setting Learning Analytics in Context: Overcoming the Barriers to Large Scale Adoption. Journal of Learning Analytics, 1(3), 120–144.

Ferguson, R., & Clow, D. (2017). Where is the evidence? A call to action for learning analytics. In LAK '17 Proceedings of the Seventh International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference, ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 56–65.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.

Fundación Telefónica (2015). MOOCs in the Education of the Future: Digitizing Training. Fundación Telefónica, 03 February 2015.

Gaebel, M., Kupriyanova, V.A, Morais, R., & Colucci, E.H. (2014). E-learning in European Higher Education Institutions: Results of a mapping survey conducted in October-December 2013. Retreived from http://www.eua.be/Libraries/publication/e-learning_survey

Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses. HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2381263

Horn, M., & Christensen, C. (2013). Beyond the Buzz, Where Are MOOCs Really Going?. Wired.com, 20 February 2013.

Jansen, D. & Konings, L. (2017). MOOC Strategies of European Institutions. Status report based on a mapping survey conducted in November 2016 – February 2017. EADTU. Retrieved from http://eadtu.eu/

Jones, M. L., & Regner, L. (2016). Users or Students? Privacy in University MOOCs. Science and Engineering Ethics, 22,1473-1496.

Kerr, R., & Eradze, M. (2016). I MOOC: un fenomeno multi-dimensionale. Italian Journal of Educational Technology (formerly TD Tecnologie Didattiche), 24(2), 126-129.

Kitchin, R. (2014). The data revolution: Big data, open data, data infrastructures & their consequences. London, UK: Sage.

Knorr Cetina, K. (2002). Global Microstructures: The Virtual Societies of Financial Markets. American Journal of Sociology, 107(4), 905-950. doi: 10.1086/341045

Koller, D., & Ng, A. (2012, November 8). Moocs: the Coming Revolutions? Educause Seminar [Video].

Landri, P. (2018). Digital Governance of Education. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Levy, D. (2014). Two Types of MOOCs: An Overview. Adult Education in Israel, 13, 106-117.

Marsh, N. (2017, January 4). MOOC users reach 58 million globally. The Pie News. Retrieved from: https://thepienews.com/news/edu-tech/mooc-users-reach-58-million-globally

Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education, 35(2), 250-262. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2014.917706

McKenna, L. (2012, May 11). The Big Idea That Can Revolutionize Higher Education: 'MOOC'. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/the-big-idea-that-can-revolutionize-higher-education-mooc/256926/

Murray, S. (2013, March 11). What is the Media & Cultural Studies of the MOOC?. Antenna. Retrieved from http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/03/11/mooc/

Nistor, N., Derntl, M., & Klamma, R. (2015) Learning Analytics: Trends and Issues of the Empirical Research of the Years 2011–2014. In G. Conole, T. Klobučar, C. Rensing, J. Konert, & E. Lavoué (Eds.), Design for Teaching and Learning in a Networked World. Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol. 9307 (pp 453-459). Cham, CH: Springer International.

Pappano, L. (2012, November 2). The Year of the MOOC. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html

Pardo, A., & Teasley, S. (2014). Learning analytics research. Theory and practice: widening the discipline. Journal of Learning Analytics, 1(3), 4-6.

Perrotta, C., Czerniewicz, L., & Beetham, H. (2015). The rise of the video-recorder teacher: the sociomaterial construction of an educational actor. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(8), 1251-1267. doi: 10.1080/01425692.2015.1044068

Porter, S. (2015). To MOOC or Not to MOOC: How Can Online Learning Help to Build the Future of Higher Education?.Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing.

Raffaghelli, J. E., Cucchiara, S., & Persico, D. (2015). Methodological approaches in MOOC research: Retracing the myth of Proteus. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 488-509. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12279

Rhoads, R. A. (2015). MOOCs, High Technology, and Higher Learning. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press.

Ritchie, J. & Spencer, L. (1994). Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research. In A. Bryman & R. G. Burgess (Eds.), Analyzing qualitative data (pp.173-194). London, UK: Routledge.

Rogers, G. (2014). The Uberization of Education. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603135511-20348008-the-uberization-of-education/

Ross, J., Sinclair, C., Knox, J., Bayne, S., & Macleod, H. (2014). Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 57-69. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol10no1/ross_0314.pdf

SCORE2020. (2017). Needs analysis for support in Open Education and MOOCs. Output 1 SCORE2020, EADTU. Retrieved from http://score2020.eadtu.eu/

Selwyn, N., & Bulfin, S. (2014). The discursive construction of MOOCs as educational opportunity and educational threat. MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) - Final Report.

Siemens, G. (2013, July 8). Neoliberalism and MOOCs: Amplifying nonsense. [Blog post]. eLearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2013/07/08/neoliberalism-and-moocs-amplifying-nonsense/

Siemens, G., Gašević, D., & Dawson, S. (2015). Preparing for the digital university: A review of the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning. Athabasca, CA: Athabasca University. Retrieved from https://linkresearchlab.org/PreparingDigitalUniversity.pdf

SoLAR. (2011). Description of the 1st International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2011. Athabasca, CA: Athabasca University. Retrieved from https://tekri.athabascau.ca/analytics/about

Tarrow, S. (1994). Power in movement: Social movements, collective action and politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Tynan, D. (2017, Feb 9). Actors, teachers, therapists – think your job is safe from artificial intelligence? Think again. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/09/robots-taking-white-collar-jobs

Ubel, R. (2017, January 16). How the Pioneers of the MOOC Got It Wrong. IEEE spectrum. Retrieved from https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/at-work/education/how-the-pioneers-of-the-mooc-got-it-wrong /

Visiongain (2015). Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Market 2015-2020: mEducation. Distance Education, Open & e-Learning in Higher Education & Enterprise. Retrieved from https://www.visiongain.com/Report/1382/Massive-Open-Online-Course-(MOOC)-Market-2015-2020

Vuorikari, R., & Castaño Muñoz, J. (Eds.). (2018). Research evidence on the use of learning analytics. Implications for educational policy. JRC Science for policy report, European Commission. doi: 10.2791/955210

Wildawsky, B. (2015). MOOCs in the developing world: hope or hype?. International High Education, n. 80, Spring, 23-25. doi: 10.6017/ihe.2015.80.6154

Williamson, B. (2014). New governing experts in education: Self-learning software, policy labs and transactional pedagogies. In T. Fenwick., E. Mangez, & J. Ozga (Eds.), World yearbook of education 2014: Governing knowledge: Comparison, knowledge-based technologies and expertise in the regulation of education (pp.218–231). London, UK: Routledge.

Williamson, B. (2015, December 23). Digital Education Governance: An introduction. European Educational Research Journal, 3-13. Retrieved from doi: 10.1177/1474904115616630

Willinsky, J. (2005). The Access Principle. The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

Yang, D. (2013, May 14). Are we MOOC'd out?. Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-yang/post_4496_b_2877799.html?guccounter=1