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MOOCocracy: the learning culture of massive open online courses


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are often examined and evaluated in terms of institutional cost, instructor prestige, number of students enrolled, and completion rates. MOOCs, which are connecting thousands of adult learners from diverse backgrounds, have yet to be viewed from a learning culture perspective. This research used virtual ethnographic methods to investigate the adult learner experience in a MOOC learning culture. Specifically, authors observed and interviewed twelve adult learners from countries around the world to gain a richer understanding of their online experiences and interactions within a MOOC focused on the social justice topic of human trafficking. Results showed that while a MOOC learning culture has some similarities to traditional distance education environments, it is indeed complex due to the large global scale. Based on the six themes that emerged from the data, the authors present the concept of MOOCocracy—a social learning democracy, as a description of the MOOC learning culture. Implications for MOOC instructional design are also discussed.

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Correspondence to Jamie Loizzo.

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Loizzo, J., Ertmer, P.A. MOOCocracy: the learning culture of massive open online courses. Education Tech Research Dev 64, 1013–1032 (2016).

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  • MOOC
  • Learning culture
  • Distance education
  • Social learning
  • Virtual ethnography