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Instructional design quality of massive open online courses (MOOCs)

Anoush Margaryan
Glasgow Caledonian University
Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 16:00
LSRI labs B35a Exchange


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A growing number of universities and other public and private organisations are offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) worldwide. MOOCs have been endorsed as a ‘major advancement of higher education’ and ‘a new form of online learning’. Critics raised concerns about the emphasis on access to content rather than the quality of instructional design within MOOCs.  However there is no recognised system for quality assessment in MOOCs and even the quality metrics are under debate.  Also, there is very little empirical research into MOOCs and their effectiveness for learning. Specifically there has been no systematic analysis of instructional design quality of MOOCs.  As more and more universities invest resources in setting up MOOCs the question of whether or not MOOCs provide quality learning becomes pressing.  I shall present the results of a systematic analysis of instructional design quality of 76 randomly selected MOOCs. The quality of MOOCs was determined from first principles of instruction, prescriptive criteria for effective instruction, which have been synthesised from key contemporary theories of learning and instruction.  We found that the majority of MOOCs scored poorly on most first principles. However, most MOOCs scored highly on organisation and presentation of course material. The results indicate that although most MOOCs are well-packaged, their instructional design quality is low. This study offers a systematic framework and theoretically–sound criteria for the evaluation of instructional quality of (online) courses.  I shall outline implications for the design of MOOCs and for teaching and learning with digital technologies more broadly.


Dr Anoush Margaryan is a Senior Lecturer and Acting Director, Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University. Her research is focused on understanding how professionals learn at work and how they use digital technologies to support their learning. Her research has received financial support from ESRC, Shell, BP, Energy Institute and the Higher Education Academy. Prior to joining Glasgow Caledonian University, Anoush was a Research Fellow and an Associate Director at the Centre for Research on Learning at University of Dundee; held research fellowships and visiting lectureship posts at University of Twente in the Netherlands and the European Business School in Germany, and worked as a Research Analyst at Shell Learning and Leadership Development in the Netherlands.  She has over 100 publications in technology-enhanced professional learning including two books.



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