The Emancipated Learner? The Tensions Facing Learners in Massive, Open Learning

  • Allison LittlejohnEmail author
  • Nina Hood
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Education book series (BRIEFSEDUCAT)


MOOCs have the potential to challenge existing educational models. Paradoxically, they frequently reinforce educational conventions by requiring the learners to conform to expected norms of current educational models. Recent research has produced data on how learners engage in MOOCs. And yet, despite the extensive data, rather than freeing learners to chart their own pathways, MOOCs still require the learners to conform to expected norms. The very act of learning autonomously often causes tensions, most noticeably when learners choose to drop out, rather than complete a course as expected, or when they engage in MOOCs as mere observers, rather than active contributors. In this chapter, we explore how the emphasis on the individual as active and autonomous learner sometimes conflicts with the expectation that learners conform to accepted norms. This expectation that learners conform to accepted ‘ways of being’ in a MOOC isolates those who plan their own pathway. The chapter concludes with a typology of different learners, arguing that, rather than adhering to a ‘type’, each MOOC participant moves across these learner types, depending on their motivations, and may span different types, rather than falling into one single category.



The authors wish to thank Vasudha Chaudhari of The Open University for comments and for proofing this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK
  2. 2.University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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