Lifestream, Tweets

While popular narratives suggest that social media provide a space for increased participation, this study provides little evidence to support these claims in the context of Twitter as an adjunct to MOOCs. Results show that learners make up only about 45% of users and contribute only about 35% of tweets. The majority of users contribute minimally, and an active minority of users contributes the preponderance of messages. These findings do not reveal
substantive evidence of learners contributing to multiple hashtags, which may suggest that learners did not find Twitter to be a useful space that provided added value or responded to their needs.

Veletsianos’ year-long study raises questions about what it is that makes some MOOCs more participatory.

Some ideas for:

  • instructional design combined with:
  • anticipated future interaction (Walther, 1997, as cited in Kozinets, 2010). For example, if the MOOC draws participants from an established community (or its periphery) or from people who are likely to have opportunities for collaboration within and between institutions
  • the expertise of participants, and other participants’ perceptions of peer expertise, may affect trust dynamics (Wenger, 2010), and beliefs about where knowledge is located
  • subject area or content (does it lend itself towards discussion, or is it well-established, declarative knowledge? How does course material – instructional design – treat it?)
  • what roles do MOOC participants have in their regular lives, and does this affect their likelihood of participating using Twitter? (for example, are teachers/instructors who support ‘social learning’ more likely be social learners in the MOOCs they attend?)
  • comfort with use of Twitter (either the format or the public nature): data about participant Twitter use before and outside the MOOC hashtag may shed light on whether the medium itself is influential.
  • Do particular courses attract higher numbers of established Twitter users than others? For example, through student recruitment?

The study also raises questions about what is really driving the naturalisation of ‘social learning’. There is a danger that in adopting ‘social constructivist’ frameworks of learning we become too restrictive in what we (as educators) count as ‘learning’, privileging community practices over solitary practices, which can also constitute effective learning (Gourlay, 2015).

Veletsianos, G. (in press). Toward a Generalizable Understanding of Twitter and Social Media Use Across MOOCs: Who Participates on MOOC Hashtags and In What Ways? Journal of Computing in Higher Education.