Another SOONER PhD defense: “Dealing with autonomy: Self-regulated learning in open online education”

Another SOONER PhD defense: “Dealing with autonomy: Self-regulated learning in open online education”

The number of students enrolled and participating in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is increasing rapidly. The rise of online education is, however, not without its challenges. Due to the autonomy of students in this form of open online education, they are required to regulate their learning to a greater extent than students in traditional, face-to-face education. This presses MOOC students to take control of their own learning process and to engage more and differently in strategies to regulate their study behaviour. This raises the question how to measure self-regulated learning in open online education, and how to facilitate students to do this in a MOOC. Renée Jansen from Utrecht University investigated this in her PhD research. She will defend her dissertation on Friday October 11th 2019.

Self-regulated learners

Self-regulated learners are actively engaged during their learning proces. Activities students are involved in include environment and time management, task strategies to master the task content, comprehension monitoring, and help seeking. Furthermore, self-regulated students also make sure that they maintain a high motivation. After finishing the learning task at hand, self-regulating students reflect on their performance by comparing their achievements to the goals they have set. Based on this evaluation, students adapt their future study strategies.While students in traditional education also often need to engage in these activities, they are more important in MOOCs as they encompass greater student autonomy. Overall, the increase in this autonomy is what makes MOOCs accessible to larger groups of students compared to traditional courses. However, this makes self-regulation skills a necessity for MOOC students in order to be successful. Furthermore, students often do not have regular contact with fellow students in MOOCs; work is in most cases done individually. Without collaboration, there is also a lack of peer support, making it harder for students to stay motivated. In her dissertation Renée wanted to find out more about self-regulated learning in open online education. She posed two main questions: 1) How to support SRL in OOE?, and 2) How to measure SRL in OOE?

Facilitating SRL in open online education

For research question one, Renée used meta-analytic structural equation modelling (MASEM) to find out whether the effect of SRL interventions on achievement is mediated by learners’ SRL activity. This is often assumed, but rarely being tested. She found only partial mediation, suggesting that the effect of SRL interventions on achievement can only partly be explained by improvements in students’ SRL activities. Renée also used process mining to study recurring patterns in learners’ behaviors in MOOCs. By this she found that most learners adhere to the course structures that are put in place by course developers. These results suggest that there are opportunities to support weak SRL learners in MOOCs by adjusting the instructional design. Finally, Renée tested an SRL intervention in three MOOCs from Utrecht University. She implemented three videos containing SRL tips. The biggest challenge in this study was to do meaningful analysis on the big amounts of trace data that was available. The results revealed massive drop out and low compliance to the intervention. But for the group of learners who did comply she found higher completion rates and higher SRL activities (e.g., planning, help seeking).

Measuring SRL in open online education

For research question two, Renée focused on challenges related to measuring learners’ SRL in open online education. She concludes that measurement of SRL requires the simultaneous use of different instruments. To this end, she developed a questionnaire to measure SRL in open online learning environments. This instrument can be found here. Furthermore Renée showed that combining questionnaire data with process mining of trace data, can be used to better understand learners’ behaviors in MOOCs in terms of SRL.

If you want to find out more about Renée’s work, you can find her dissertation online in a couple of weeks. Please feel welcome to attend the defense on October 11th, 14.30h at the beautiful Academiegebouw of Utrecht University.

CC BY 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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