Research Study

Quantitative Research Study – Social Media Literacies and Perceptions of Value in Open Online Courses

Research Artifact: Stewart, B. (2010). Social Media Literacies and Perceptions of Value in Open Online Courses.

Description of Artifact:
I designed this quantitative research survey and carried out the study within the Personal Learning Environments Networks Knowledge (PLENK 2010) Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in the fall of 2010.

The study sought to determine whether prior social media literacies among participants in a MOOC correlated with reported value experienced in the course. The study framed “social media literacies” as a subset of digital sociality (Thompson & Cupples, 2008) and digital literacies such as networking and sharing. The research process involved the compilation of a literature review on the emerging field of social media literacies, and the identification of types of engagement that would count as prior literacies for the purposes of the survey. It also entailed outlining an early history of MOOCs and identification of the premises and assumptions underlying the central question of how literacies correlated with reported value.

I approached the instructors and research team of PLENK 2010 for permission to carry out the study as one of the course’s research initiatives. The PLENK 2010 research team – which included 5 scholars based at universities in Canada, the United States, and Australia, and 3 representatives of the Canada Research Council – contributed feedback on the draft questionnaire, as did my quantitative research professor and the instructors of the course. All participants were volunteers, and data was collected by online survey via SurveyMonkey.

The questionnaire was designed using a 5 point Likert scale and data was assessed with the SPSS software package, utilizing descriptive statistics, bivariate statistics (ANOVA) and prediction (Factor Analysis).

The findings of the study suggested that prior social media literacies did not correlate highly with reported experience of value in a MOOC: even participants with limited prior social media engagement reported value in the PLENK10 MOOC.

Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes displayed by Artifact:
Designing, conducting, and writing up this study required me to:

  • learn and enact a quantitative methodological approach to social science research
  • connect with and contribute collegially to the PLENK 2010 research team
  • collaborate with my instructors, fellow researchers, and other educational professionals to design an effective questionnaire
  • frame “literacies” and “value” in a manner appropriate to quantitative study
  • conduct careful and thorough human subject research
  • analyze the data utilizing SPSS software
  • write up the report and analysis utilizing third-person scientific voice
  • frame MOOCs for an audience unfamiliar with participatory online learning
  • compile a literature review defining digital and social media literacies

Context of Artifact:
It is important to note that at the time this paper was written, the term MOOC connoted one particular type of online learning, the history of which is explored briefly in the paper. Since that time, the term has been adopted and dramatically expanded to connote a variety of large-scale online course frameworks, many of which are more similar to traditional course structures than PLENK 2010 would have been. The MOOC model which PLENK 2010 was built on now tends to be designated as a cMOOC, or connectivist MOOC. It is unclear whether or not the conclusions drawn by this study would have any applicability for other emergent MOOC models.

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