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Title: An ethnomethodologically-informed study of interaction in the MOOC
Author: Zawilska, Anna
ISNI:       0000 0004 6501 1616
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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The massive open online course (MOOC) is an online educational platform that has garnered significant popularity in recent years and is viewed by some as a transformative force in tertiary education. Originally designed to replicate a classroom setting, social interaction should be a fundamental part of using the MOOC. Most research into MOOCs has focused on using quantitative 'big data' to understand social interaction of large cohorts of students over entire courses. However, recently there has been a turn towards understanding qualitative aspects of social interaction in order to really take account of its features. A substantial gap in existing research on MOOCs is understanding the fine-grained qualitative features of social interaction in terms of the sequential reportable-observable unfolding of activity. In this thesis, these features are explored in detail in order to unpack and enrich the current understanding of social interaction in MOOCs, and to consider how this might inform improved MOOC interface design that better supports it. This thesis uses mainly video data of social interaction from quasi-naturalistic studies, that is then subject to ethnomethodologically-informed analysis. The studies involve small groups of participants, both co-present and distributed, collaboratively performing open-ended tasks around MOOC educational content. The analyses reveal recurring patterns in interaction that are largely glossed over by many existing 'big data'-based studies. I pull out a number of conceptual findings that extend current understanding of interaction in MOOCs. Firstly, I show how an act like a ‘click' may have a diverse and complex role to play in the unfolding of social interaction, at both an individual and group level. Secondly, I explicate some of the key interactional resources that distributed participants may use to transcend boundaries in space and time. I show, for example, how visibility of the immediate context of an act appears to give it a sense of meaning. Thirdly, I discuss how dynamic and complex participation can be; revealing how students can emergently construct and transition between different and multi-faceted modes of participation. Drawing on these findings, I contribute substantively to the MOOC platform by surfacing a number of important issues to inform system requirements. Methodologically, I reflect on my key learnings taking this approach in terms of advantages and challenges. I find it can be difficult to learn how to undertake an ethnomethodologically-informed study. However, as I show in the thesis, this approach brings to the fore some of the rich seen-but-unnoticed ways participants accomplish social interaction, which other automated methods are not designed to do.
Supervisor: Jirotka, Marina Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available