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International Review of Education

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 197–219 | Cite as

Teachers’ roles in light of massive open online courses (MOOCs): Evolution and challenges in higher distance education

  • Inés Gil-Jaurena
  • Daniel Domínguez
Original Paper

Abstract

This article analyses the challenges teachers face when entering a digital and open online environment in higher education. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a popular phenomenon, making online learning more visible in the educational agenda; therefore, it is appropriate to analyse their expansion and diversification to help inform the next generation of courses. In this article, MOOCs are contextualised in a historical and wider approach to online education, building upon lessons learned from open and distance education, and exploring the introduction of technologies in providing higher education to massive populations over the past 45 years. In particular, the research study presented in this article used the open scholarship approach to analyse many of the changes that can occur in teaching when an open context applies, as in the case of MOOCs. Taking into account that a collaborative online learning experience is influenced by the simultaneous presence and overlap of cognitive, social and teaching elements, the study also used the community of inquiry model as a theoretical framework. In the study, 24 teachers (from the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia [UNED] in Madrid, Spain) were surveyed about their experiences of MOOCs in terms of their current tasks, and the main changes they have observed compared to teaching in a more traditional electronic learning (e-learning) environment (at both graduate and postgraduate levels). These changes in roles, as well as teachers’ views about the impact of “massiveness” and “openness” on their understanding and teaching practice, are presented and analysed. Finally, the article also discusses how the evolution towards adapted learning, collaborative learning and assessment supported by technical tools, for example, was already in progress at UNED before MOOCs were initiated.

Keywords

massive open online courses (MOOCs) teachers’ roles higher education e-learning online education 

Résumé

Rôles des enseignants dans les formations en ligne ouvertes à tous (FLOT) : évolution et défis dans l’enseignement supérieur à distance – Cet article analyse les défis que rencontrent les enseignants quand ils agissent dans un environnement numérique en ligne de l’enseignement supérieur. Les FLOT sont devenues un phénomène populaire et donnent une visibilité à l’apprentissage en ligne dans le projet éducatif ; il est donc opportun d’analyser leur expansion et leur diversification afin d’alimenter la prochaine génération de cours. Les FLOT sont contextualisées ici selon une approche historique et élargie de l’enseignement en ligne, qui tient compte des leçons tirées de l’enseignement ouvert et à distance et explore l’introduction des technologies en vue de dispenser l’enseignement supérieur à de grands nombres au cours des 45 dernières années. L’étude de recherche présentée applique notamment l’approche du savoir ouvert pour analyser les nombreux changements pouvant s’opérer dans l’enseignement dans un contexte ouvert comme celui des FLOT. Tenant compte du fait que l’expérience collective d’apprentissage en ligne est influencée par la présence et la superposition simultanées d’éléments cognitifs, sociaux et enseignants, l’étude utilise également le modèle de la communauté d’enquête comme cadre théorique. Vingt-quatre enseignants (de l’université nationale de formation à distance UNED à Madrid, Espagne) y ont fait l’objet d’une enquête sur leurs expériences avec les FLOT par rapport à leurs tâches courantes et aux principaux changements qu’ils ont observés, en comparaison avec l’enseignement électronique dans un environnement plus traditionnel (apprentissage en ligne), et ce au niveau des second et troisième cycles. L’article présente et analyse cette évolution dans les rôles et les opinions des enseignants quant à l’impact de la « massivité » et de l’« ouverture » sur leur conceptualisation et leur pratique de l’enseignement. Enfin, l’article examine dans quelle mesure l’évolution vers l’apprentissage adapté, l’apprentissage collectif et l’évaluation facilitée par des outils techniques par exemple était déjà en cours à l’UNED avant l’apparition des FLOT.

Resumen

Los roles de los docentes a la luz de los cursos online masivos abiertos (MOOCs): Evolución y desafíos en educación superior a distancia – Este artículo analiza los desafíos a los que se enfrentan los docentes al desarrollar su trabajo en un entorno digital y abierto en educación superior. Los cursos online masivos abiertos (MOOC, por sus siglas en inglés) se han convertido en un fenómeno popular, y han hecho que el aprendizaje en línea sea más visible en la agenda educativa; por tanto, resulta apropiado analizar su expansión y diversificación para ayudar a informar la próxima generación de cursos. En este artículo, los MOOC se contextualizan en un enfoque histórico y más amplio de la educación en línea, aprovechando las lecciones aprendidas de la educación abierta y a distancia, y explorando la introducción de tecnologías para proporcionar educación superior a poblaciones masivas durante los últimos 45 años. En particular, esta investigación utiliza el enfoque del conocimiento abierto (open scholarship) para analizar algunos de los cambios que pueden ocurrir en la enseñanza cuando se realiza en un contexto abierto, como en el caso de los MOOC. Teniendo en cuenta que una experiencia colaborativa de aprendizaje en línea está influenciada por la presencia simultánea y la superposición de elementos cognitivos, sociales y de enseñanza, este estudio utiliza también el modelo de comunidad de indagación (community of inquiry) como marco teórico. En el estudio, se realizó una encuesta a 24 docentes (de la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia [UNED] en Madrid, España) acerca de sus experiencias y tareas docentes en MOOCs y sobre los principales cambios que han observado en comparación con la enseñanza en un entorno de aprendizaje electrónico tradicional (e-learning) (sus cursos virtuales en los niveles de grado y posgrado). En el artículo se presentan y analizan estos cambios en los roles, así como las opiniones de los docentes sobre el impacto de la “masividad” y la “apertura” en su conceptualización y práctica docente. Finalmente, el artículo discute cómo la evolución hacia el aprendizaje adaptado, el aprendizaje colaborativo o la evaluación facilitada por herramientas tecnológicas, entre otros, ya estaba en marcha en la UNED antes de que se iniciaran los MOOC.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This article has been developed within the framework of the ASEM Education and Research Hub for Lifelong Learning (ASEM LLL Hub) Research Network 1 (RN1): Development of ICT skills, e-learning and the culture of e-learning in Lifelong Learning (e-ASEM). We would like to thank the UNED MOOC teachers who responded to our survey.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature, and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)MadridSpain

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