Module 7: Dissertation

Completing this research project was a labour of love that took me on a journey far beyond traditional classroom practice. Having developed a keen interest in connectivism and Massive Open Online Courses, I sought to apply these emerging Higher Education pedagogies within a secondary school setting. It is my contention that such modes of learning represent the future of education. While the research project itself was largely inconclusive, there was evidence to suggest that such practices could have a place in helping learners, as young as 14, to become more in(ter)dependent.

Research Question:

To what extent can virtual courses support the development of independent learning beyond ‘real time’ curriculum delivery?


The purpose of this case study was to evaluate whether virtual courses (MOOCs) could successfully develop independent learning skills in secondary school students beyond the ‘real time’ curriculum. In particular I sought to test and evaluate two course models that reduced the presence of educator as expert, encouraging instead the interdependent learning prevalent in connectivist MOOCs. To do this I developed a course titled: Critical Skills 101 (#crit101). The course ran over two six week periods with two different groups of participants for the purposes of comparisons. In the second iteration of the course, changes were made to further reduce the input of educator as expert.

Participant data was logged to track and evaluate engagement and course completion. Surveys were used to provide feedback both in terms of progress and also to evaluate the course itself. Finally, a sample of documentary evidence was selected to analyse and interpret the learning and progress that had taken place. It was my intent to triangulate the data in order to assess both viability and success.

While the data produced in the survey and the documentary evidence suggest that the course was successful, the participant data demonstrates that running such a course outside of the ‘real time’ curriculum is a challenge. The dropout rate of participants in both iterations was significant. This also placed limitations on the reliability and validity of the sample analysed. As only a small number of participants completed the course conclusions can only be drawn about each instance of the #crit101 course in their own right. As such, I have avoided making generalisations.

Nevertheless, such a small case can provide a unique insight and it is certainly evident that further study into the viability of MOOC-like courses being used within secondary education should be explored.

The completed dissertation is available to read and/or download as a full text PDF and can be found in the ‘Dissertation Library’ at Oxford Brookes University.

The #crit101 course was published under a non-commercial creative commons license and remains publicly available here: Critical Skills 101.

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