Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide learning opportunities to all regardless of age, cultural background, social economic status, prior knowledge, and motivation. However, these opportunities are missed when learners do not successfully learn. Learning in MOOCs differ from conventional classroom. Students are given the responsibilities to plan their own study schedule and decide what they want to do with the course materials. Therefore, success in learning relies heavily on learners’ ability to regulate their own learning and factors that affect the self-regulatory learning process.
Originally trained as a teacher for primary and secondary school in her home country Singapore, Jacqueline turned to psychology in 2006. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Queensland, she returned to teaching for six more years. In 2014, she decided to further develop herself professionally by pursuing a master’s degree in psychology in Rotterdam. Upon her graduation, she worked as a research assistant on using sensor technology to understand the relations between human physiological responses and task engagement. In early 2016 she returned to academia again. This time as a PhD.
Jacqueline is doing her PhD at the Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her main focus is on the relationship between student characteristics and their engagement as well as achievement in open online higher education such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Together with two other PhDs of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Education and Learning (CEL) she wants to find out what the success factors of open online education are.
What do you want to have contributed at the end of your PhD?
‘I am interested in providing learning support to students in MOOCs by making changes to the online course environment. Through these changes, it is possible to sustain or increase motivation and self-regulated learning (SRL) support. The end goal is to enhance learning and completion rates. MOOCs being a relatively new learning environment, we don’t know what kind of interventions are better for which learners at this moment. At the end of my PhD, I hope to contribute to the knowledge we have of learners so as to create more adaptive learning support.’
Self-regulated learning supports? You have to explain that to me.
‘Self-regulated learning (SRL) is the extent to which students are involved in their learning, be it cognitively, motivationally, or behaviourally. This includes how students plan and organize their learning, use learning strategies during learning, and reflect on how well they are learning.
SRL supports come in many different forms. They can be about goal setting, time management, visual feedback to reduce procrastination, self-monitoring or note-taking systems.’
What are you working on now?
‘At the moment I am conducting experiments in three of the MOOCs offered by Erasmus University. These MOOCs are Serious Gaming, Econometrics and Innovation Management. These courses differ in their design. This means that we are not only looking at learners who are interested in different subjects with different motivations, we can also compare the effect of the supporting SRL in the different courses.
In the current study, we are examining whether prompting and recommending self-regulated learning (SRL) in MOOCs enhance learning outcomes. Videos to prompt and recommend SRL were incorporated into the MOOCs. They were intended to prompt students to ask themselves whether they are regulating their own learning.
Why are you researching this?
Most people are not good at reflecting on their own learning. Or it could be that self-regulating one’s own learning do not happen spontaneously. With the prompts to stimulate students to think about their learning state and the SRL recommendations that students can use, I hope that students learning in MOOCs will be better at regulating their own learning and become more successful MOOC learners. Part of the study is also to investigate why some learners are more successful than the others and what the differences are in their learning behaviour.’
You started your PhD in April 2016. How was your first year?
‘During my first year, which was a good year with some steep learning curves, I have looked into the types of self-regulated learning supports that have been implemented in online learning environments and made plans for my research project.’
And did you find self-regulated learning supports in online learning environments?
First of all, I found that there was a lack of empirical studies on SRL supports in MOOCs. Therefore, I extended the question to what kind of SRL supports have already been implemented in online learning environments. The goal was to gain insights from online learning environments and translate these findings to the development of SRL supports in MOOCs. In collaboration with the other CEL PhDs (Tim van der Zee and Dan Davis) I wrote a systematic review of the studies we found. The paper is currently under review.’
Congratulations! So the CEL collaboration immediately paid off?
‘Yes. The three of us communicate regularly. It’s like a PhD support network in that sense. We share interesting articles that are related to our field or we update each other on how things are going. Depending on the projects we are working on, we will identify areas that we can involve each other. Sometimes the supervisors also give us a specific task to work on together. Like Tim and I who are in the editorial board of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Student Success website.