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Learning designers and educators in the ‘third space’: the socio-technical construction of MOOCs in UK higher education

Learning designers and educators in the ‘third space’: the socio-technical construction of MOOCs in UK higher education
Learning designers and educators in the ‘third space’: the socio-technical construction of MOOCs in UK higher education
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been portrayed as “agents of change” in Higher Education (HE) which impact on educator practices, course design and teaching. However, MOOCs do not ‘fit’ neatly into existing university organisational structures, or align completely with conventional university functions. Few studies have looked at the complexity of the relationship between social change and the construction of MOOCs within higher education, particularly in terms of educator and learning designer (LD) roles and practices. To address this gap, this study combines the analytic strategy of Socio-Technical Interaction Networks (STIN) with the social theory of a ‘third space’ in HE. Thus it analyses socio-technical activity which spans professional and academic domains of HE in order to account for both educator and LD roles. The approach balances concerns with social and technical factors in analysing the relationship between technologies and social and organisational change related to MOOC development.

The research involves a multi-site case study of three UK HE institutions. It aims to capture an empirically based, nuanced understanding of the extent to which MOOCs are socio-technically constructed in particular contexts, and the social implications of developing MOOCs, especially for educator and LD roles and practices. The findings highlight the complexity of interactions and collaborative processes underlying MOOC development. LDs are shown to occupy a hub-like position within a network of social actors, incentives, pressures and technologies involved in MOOC development and implementation. This LD role is enacted within an emergent ‘third space’ which spans conventional academic and professional boundaries and functions, allowing LDs and seemingly peripheral actors to significantly shape and partially unbundle the roles of educators in determining course structure and content.

The study contributes a valuable socio-technical element to research on the third space which frequently identifies TEL projects as characteristic of third space activity, yet fails to consider the role of technology in co-constructing this space. The findings also provide a richer understanding of the LD role and the way social and technical means can be deployed to shape this role and the roles of others within a third space context. The thesis has implications for the planning and implementation of online learning projects and other domains of inter-professional practice in which Web technology and education coincide.
University of Southampton
White, Steven, Tom
11ad3254-7def-4d57-8a74-12e8312d37f2
White, Steven, Tom
11ad3254-7def-4d57-8a74-12e8312d37f2
White, Susan
5f9a277b-df62-4079-ae97-b9c35264c146

White, Steven, Tom (2018) Learning designers and educators in the ‘third space’: the socio-technical construction of MOOCs in UK higher education. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 259pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been portrayed as “agents of change” in Higher Education (HE) which impact on educator practices, course design and teaching. However, MOOCs do not ‘fit’ neatly into existing university organisational structures, or align completely with conventional university functions. Few studies have looked at the complexity of the relationship between social change and the construction of MOOCs within higher education, particularly in terms of educator and learning designer (LD) roles and practices. To address this gap, this study combines the analytic strategy of Socio-Technical Interaction Networks (STIN) with the social theory of a ‘third space’ in HE. Thus it analyses socio-technical activity which spans professional and academic domains of HE in order to account for both educator and LD roles. The approach balances concerns with social and technical factors in analysing the relationship between technologies and social and organisational change related to MOOC development.

The research involves a multi-site case study of three UK HE institutions. It aims to capture an empirically based, nuanced understanding of the extent to which MOOCs are socio-technically constructed in particular contexts, and the social implications of developing MOOCs, especially for educator and LD roles and practices. The findings highlight the complexity of interactions and collaborative processes underlying MOOC development. LDs are shown to occupy a hub-like position within a network of social actors, incentives, pressures and technologies involved in MOOC development and implementation. This LD role is enacted within an emergent ‘third space’ which spans conventional academic and professional boundaries and functions, allowing LDs and seemingly peripheral actors to significantly shape and partially unbundle the roles of educators in determining course structure and content.

The study contributes a valuable socio-technical element to research on the third space which frequently identifies TEL projects as characteristic of third space activity, yet fails to consider the role of technology in co-constructing this space. The findings also provide a richer understanding of the LD role and the way social and technical means can be deployed to shape this role and the roles of others within a third space context. The thesis has implications for the planning and implementation of online learning projects and other domains of inter-professional practice in which Web technology and education coincide.

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Published date: October 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 433536
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/433536
PURE UUID: ad0a2572-01c6-4a99-9194-d4eb090da871
ORCID for Steven, Tom White: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2296-7082
ORCID for Susan White: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9588-5275

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 27 Aug 2019 16:30
Last modified: 28 Aug 2019 00:36

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Contributors

Author: Steven, Tom White ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Susan White ORCID iD

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