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Liminal participants and skilled orienteers: Learner participation in a MOOC for new lecturers
Waite, Marion · Mackness, Jenny · Roberts, George · Lovegrove, Elizabeth

PublishedJune 2013
JournalMERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
Volume 9, Issue 2, Pages 1-16

This case study explored learner participation in First Steps in Learning and Teaching in
Higher Education (FSLT12), a short massive open online course (MOOC) aimed at
introducing learning and teaching in higher education that was offered by Oxford
Brookes University in June 2012. Both novice and experienced MOOC learners joined
the course. The aim of the case study was to explore triggers for active participation. A
mixed-methods approach was utilized in order to collect and analyze data from focus
groups, individual interviews, participant blog posts, and a survey. The lenses of social
constructivism, connectivism, and community of practice theories were used to enhance
understanding of participation in FSLT12. Three main themes emerged: (1) Navigation:
New participants felt overwhelmed by technical issues, multiple channels, and a
perceived need to multitask, while experienced learners were judicious about planning
their route; (2) Transformative learning: Ultimately, learners experienced a
transformative shift, but it required reflection on practice, community support, and selforganization; (3) Reciprocal Relationships: New learners needed time to determine their
audience and core community, as well as to realize mutual relationships within that
community. Learners in a MOOC inhabit a liminal space. Active MOOC participants are
skilled orienteers. Engaging local expertise of experienced MOOC learners and
developing participatory skills in new learners is a key strategy for those who organize
and facilitate MOOCs.

Keywords  · connectivist massive open online course (cMOOC) · liminality · navigation · participation · reciprocity · threshold concepts · transformative learning

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