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The socio-technical construction of MOOCs and their relationship to educator and learning designer roles and practices in HE

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Rebecca Ferguson
27 May 2016

Steve White, University of Southampton

MOOCs are frequently portrayed as “agents of change” in higher education impacting on institutional practices, processes and structures. Few studies have looked at the relationship between social change and the construction of MOOCs within higher education, particularly in terms of educator and learning designer roles and practices. This research takes a socio-technical perspective, combining the established analytical strategy of Socio-Technical Interaction Networks (STIN) with social theoretical frameworks of HE activity. These social theories are used as lenses through which to relate the STIN findings to the particular activities of educators and learning designers. This multi-site case study provides empirical evidence of the extent to which MOOCs are constructed in particular contexts, and the social implications of MOOCs for educator and learning designer roles and practices. Preliminary findings indicate that learning-designers occupy a hub-like position in the networks of actors involved in MOOC development within an emergent ‘third space’. The analysis also reveals how certain seemingly peripheral actors exert a strong influence of on course production processes and content. The work contributes to the body of STIN research in relation to the Web, and understandings of ‘third space’ activity in higher education by including analysis of both social and technical factors to account for changing practices and roles in HE.

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