Very relevant read while working on my micro-ethnography of ds106, particularly around the challenges and ethical issues surrounding research of connectivist-style MOOCs!
Over the past five years, the emergence of interactive social media has influenced the development of learning environments. Learning management systems have come to maturity, but because they are controlled by educational institutions and are subsequently used to support institutional learning, have been seen by learning technologists as not capturing the spirit and possibilities that new media have to offer for learning. Academics and researchers are currently investigating a different learning environment, more open and networked, while the underpinning learning theory is moving from social constructivism towards connectivism. Research in open learning environments is only in its infancy and researchers have only started to become interested in massive open online courses (MOOCs) as a topic of investigation. Recent research and development efforts have focused on generating technologies that might facilitate learning within a self-directed information and communication stream. In this paper, the authors report on an exploratory case study of PLENK, a connectivist-style MOOC, and highlight some of the challenges in the research and analysis process, especially as significant amounts of both quantitative and qualitative data were involved. Important findings related to activity levels and important dimensions of self-directed learning in an open learning environment are presented.