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Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?

, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?
Submission to the 3rd International Conference on Higher Education Development "Future Visions for Higher Education Development"

Hanan Khalil
Instructional Technology Department , Faculty of Education Mansoura University e-Mail:drhanan.khalil@gmail.com

Martin Ebner
Social Learning, Information Technology Services Graz University of Technology, Steyrergasse 30, A-8010 Graz e-Mail: martin.ebner@tugraz.at Keywords: MOOCs, Interaction, Interaction in MOOCs, Data analyses Abstract: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are booming. They possibility to study whatever, wherever, and whenever for free is convincing to millions of online learners. A main criterion for the success of learning is interaction and communication as for MOOCs too. But there is little research work to be found according to the ways of MOOC interaction, its usage, and importance so far. This study deals exactly with these topics. The results of this study show that there is a lot of distinct “student to student” interaction using social networks and other Web 2.0 possibilities but very little “student to instructor” interaction. It is a task of the future to strengthen such interaction in order to optimize the learning outcome and community.

Introduction
A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an open online course offered for free to anyone who wants to participate and to learn about a specific topic. MOOCs attract millions of online learners from all over the world given the possibility to easily study science, engineering, and humanities subjects delivered by the world’s best professors from Harvard, Stanford, or MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Without having to pay expensive tuition, with online courses students even don´t need to quit their full-time job too (Butler, 2012). Bearing in mind that learning is a strong social and active process that mainly proceeds by as well as through communication (Motschnik & Holzinger, 2002) and interaction (Preece et al, 2002) a careful look must be taken at the ways these crucial parameters can be established for big courses. At the same time, concern about MOOCs quality is increasing; questions like “How can universities guarantee quality of MOOCs even in the face of such explosive growth of learners?” occur. Due to the fact that

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

the importance of interaction is a prerequisite for high quality MOOCs this publication will deal exactly on this topic. Interaction in MOOCs will help students to develop their own ideas, express themselves, establish their presence, and make thoughtful long-term relationships. So the focus and purpose of this paper is to give a practical review on interaction possibilities in today´s MOOCs. Based on an accurate data analysis and observation, interaction tools were identified that are currently offered in the worldwide most popular and biggest MOOCs. We like to address following research questions: • What are the interactions (discussions) in MOOCs about? • How do the three types of interaction (“students to student”, “student to instructor”, and “student to content” according to (Moore, 1989) take place in MOOCs? • Which type of interaction is the most used one in MOOCs? The preliminary results of the research show that discussion forums and social networks (Facebook, Twitter, wiki, blogs, YouTube, Google+) are the primary tools offered by the most popular MOOCs. The discussions in MOOCs are about general course topics, study groups, lectures assignments as well as technical feedback. In addition, interaction from “student to student” is happening by using tools such as discussion forums and social networks. Interaction from “student to instructor” is happening by using announcements, guides, participating in discussion, as well as tools for asking and answering questions. Finally, “student to content” interaction is happening by using homework assignments, quizzes, tests, activities, and submitting projects. The research work concluded that “student to student” is the most interesting type of interaction that is used in MOOCs. In conclusion, this study found out that there is a big lack on “student to instructor” interaction in MOOCs. Thus, there is a big need for instructors’ activities and strategies to enhance interaction in future MOOCs. Higher education in Egypt is mainly government sponsored and regulated. There is a noted growth in the number of student’s population in higher education institutions who directly enroll after finishing basic education (Baraka, 2005). In order to provide the growing population of Egypt with quality, accessible, and abundant educational opportunities, both the government and the private sector do their best to develop alternative programs and delivery methods. The delivery of e-learning programs has been recognized as one of the essential alternative delivery

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

methods for education and training available around the world (Abdelwahab, 2008). Brooks (2009) identifies many reasons why institutions of higher education should adapt e-learning. It provides more opportunities to create active learning environments, address the learning styles of today’s technology connected students, foster a greater variety of experiences outside the classroom, teach students how to do independent research, and make college more accessible to students. The report by Beckstrom (Beckstrom et. al. 2004) presented a summary of two significant Egyptian government initiatives that should positively affect the realization of e-learning in Egypt; the Internet and Personal Computer Initiatives. Concerning the Internet initiative, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has been maintaining a free Internet access nationwide since 2002, where more than 15.000 ports have been set-up. Regarding the Personal Computer Initiatives, affordable PCs and Laptops have been made available to students and professional within a monthly installment plan that could be also financed up by a low interest loan. Moreover, numerous e-learning projects have been launched by a number of Egyptian government universities since 2002 such as: • HEEPFE: Higher Education Enhancement project, sponsored by World Bank. • Open source platform for Higher Education, named MEDA, sponsored by UNESCO. • Finally Tempus projects, sponsored by European Commission Directorate for Education and Culture. E-learning is considered as a means of alleviating conventional educational problems that faces Egypt (Baraka, 2005). One of the recent innovations in the research field of e-learning is about Massive Open Online Courses, shortly MOOCS. MOOCs have become a surging trend in higher education; traditional academic programs are scrambling to figure out where that trend is headed (Cormier, Siemens & Downes, 2011). These open courses are online, free of charge, open to anyone in the world who has a laptop and an Internet connection (Beker & Posner 2012). MOOCs can provide innovative solutions to problems such as overcrowded classrooms especially in faculties like medicine and laws that have huge number of students, high prices of traditional educational books, transportation problems, need for continued education and specialized training, and those in the middle of their careers. Adapting MOOCs by

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

Egyptian universities can be a further step in higher education. It'll bring teaching to multitudes of students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it, without having to pay expensive tuition or leave their works. George Siemens, wrote about MOOCs saying, “Learning is now happening through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks, in an environment in which, “know-how and knowwhat is being supplemented with know-where the understanding of where to find knowledge needed”. (George Siemens, 2005, 4). One of the key components of good teaching in MOOCs is the intellectually stimulating exchange of ideas, those meaningful interactions that occur between student and student, student and instructor, and student and content (Mak, Williams, and Mackness, 2010). At the same time, Markoff (2013) has shown that MOOCs students have a higher course withdrawal rate. He pointed out that when 100.000 students study MOOC, only 5.000 complete it. Despite these concerns about MOOCs withdrawal rates, there is an absence of any scientific studies on the reasons that actually make students withdraw and how many students actually complete distance education programs versus face-to-face programs (Carr, 2000; Phipps, 2004). The high drop out rate in open online courses has been attributed to student demographics (Bink, Biner, Huffman, Greer, & Dean, 1995; Fjortoft, 1996), psychological attributes such as student learning styles (Aragon, Johnson, & Shaik, 2002; Klingner, 2003), prior academic achievement (Nesler, 1999), instructional design (Williams, 2003), and interaction within the course (Arbaugh, 2001). There is some evidence that interaction between students and students, students and content, students and instructors may influence performance and retention (Navarro & Shoemaker, 2000). Northrup (2002) pointed out that since interaction has been found to be a part of overall student satisfaction, interaction should be considered in retention efforts. As a result, it seems obvious that there is a need to understand interactions in MOOCs. The focus and purpose of this publication is to give a practical review on interaction possibilities with a special focus on MOOCs. MOOCs Technology is paving a new way for many learners to connect with some of the best instructors and teachers on the world. From Stanford and MIT to Harvard and beyond, there are Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) sprouting up everywhere (Lepi, 2012). The term MOOC was

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

first coined by Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations, at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2008 for a large online class taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes (Mcauley, Stewart, Siemens & Cormier, 2010). Since then a considerable debate has been reported over the definition of MOOCs. Littlefi (2012) defined MOOC as a massively open online class, a class that is free, has a huge following, and includes all of the components you need to learn away from the traditional classroom. Moreover, Waarad (2011) pointed out that MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course that is a gathering for participants, of people willing to jointly exchange information and collaboratively enhance their knowledge. McAuley, Stewart, Siemens and Cormier (2010) argued that MOOCs are generally online massive courses that carry no prerequisites other than Internet access and interest, no predefined expectations for participation, and no formal accreditation. MOOCs provide an online version of complete courses, with video instruction, online quizzes, forums to encourage student engagement, and graded to evaluate if students learn from the course (Markoff, 2013). Butler (2012) pointed out that these virtual courses are taught by accredited professors from around the world to disseminate content, inspire collaboration, and assess students' work. MOOCs cover not only a very broad range of technical subjects such as math, statistics, computer science, natural sciences, and engineering, but, increasingly, also courses in social sciences and humanities (Beker and Posner, 2012). Unlike a one-way series of YouTube tutorials, MOOCs have start and end dates just like a traditional physical course, and students can be evaluated and in some cases certified for their work (Smith, 2012). Thompson (2011) indicated that MOOCs participants include degree-seeking students, vocational learners, and people of all ages and locations, as well as that the course benefits from a rich diversity of ideas arising from many regions, cultures, and perspectives. At the same time, Zhu (2012) argued that MOOCs allow the hosting college or university to open its curriculum to a wider audience, extending the institution’s voice into the community at large as it removes barriers to learning. According to Waard (2011) there are many benefits for adopting MOOCs as a source for knowledge augmentation. The learning process takes place in an informal setting in comparison to a classroom setting. In addition, Chamberlin and Parish (2011) pointed out that thoughts and instruction in MOOCs can be shared, viewed, and critiqued by all the participants of the course. Fisher (2012) added that MOOCs are free courses; students don’t have to enroll in the institutions which host the

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

MOOCs. Furthermore these kinds of courses provide students with flexibility to perform the course work based on their time availability. Learners don’t need a degree to follow the course, only the willingness to learn. Moreover, language barriers are less of a concern to students because of the availability of website translation services; instructors can organize it in any language you like (Waard, 2011). Due to their interactive nature, MOOCs allow for direct immersion and engagement within the topic at hand and allow for digital skill development. Stanford and MIT recently started offering free online courses, and both universities enrolled thousands of users (Carson and Schmidt, 2012). Sebastian Thrun, one of the pioneers at Stanford, created the artificial intelligence course that attracted over 160.000 users. Inspired by this (*) success he formed acompany called Udacity , a for-profit start-up that will use a similar model for online instruction, with the goal of making an entire computer science course available at no cost. Thrun’s Stanford colleagues Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng also participated in the first (*) round of Stanford MOOCs and subsequently spun off Coursera , another for-profit start-up. It was founded January 2012 and has reached more than 1.7 million learners so far. It aims to provide a platform for other universities to host similar online courses. Afterwards MIT and Harvard (*) University produced the not-for-profit company edx to offer free online courses on a variety of topics. It has 370.000 students in fall 2012 among its first official courses. Many of the initial offerings focused on science and technology topics. All courses in common are that they are presented by experienced professionals, scientists, and scholars in their respective fields. Learners that prove their competency through edX courses will (*) receive a certificate from HarvardX. Khan Academy , also a non-profit organization founded by MIT and Harvard, graduate Salman Khan. This organization does not provide content from universities, but it does offer automated practice exercises; it recently debuted a curriculum of computer science courses. Much of the content is geared toward secondary-education (*) students. Finally, Udemy a for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a course was established. The company encourages its instructors to charge a small fee, with the revenue split between instructor and company. Authors themselves, more than a few of them with no academic affiliation, teach many of the courses.
(*) (*)

Udacity available at http://www.udacity.com/ Coursera available at https://www.coursera.org/ (*) edx available at https://www.edx.org/ (*) Khan Academy available at http://www.khanacademy.org/ (*) Udemy available at http://www.udemy.com/

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

Interaction "Interaction has been recognized as one of the most important components of learning experiences both in conventional education and distance education" (Choi, Lim & Leem, 2002, p153). Moore (1989) was one of the first who concentrate on interaction issues in distance education. He classified interaction into “student to student”, “student to instructor”, and “student to content”. These types of interaction can occur either synchronously or asynchronously. According to Moore (1989) “student to student” interaction refers to the exchange of information and ideas amongst students with or without the real-time presence of an instructor. “Student to instructor” interactions refer to the interaction between student and expert which establish an environment that encourages students to understand the content better. “Student to content” interaction is “a defining characteristic of education” and “without it there cannot be education” (Moore, 1989, p.1). These three types of interaction are the main focus of our study. Some prior studies revealed that each type of interaction could have different effects on different aspects of learning. For example, Adelskold (Adelskold et al., 1999) suggested that interaction among students could have greater effects on learning in a problem solving situation than other types of interaction whereas Kanuka and Anderson (1998) noted that interaction between students and instructor could contribute to student satisfaction and frequency of interaction in online learning. While Moore (1989) and Murray (Murray et al., 2012) pointed out that “student to content” interaction results in changes of student’s understanding, student’s perceptions, or even cognitive structures of student’s mind. Interactions in MOOCs One area that has been identified as an important factor affecting students’ learning experiences in MOOCs is student interaction (Mak, Williams & Mackness, 2010). Many educators pointed out the importance of interaction in high quality MOOCs (Mcauley, Stewart, Siemens & Cormier, 2010; Waard, 2011; Levy and Schrire, 2012; Fisher, 2012). They confirmed the role of interaction and communication in MOOCs as learners construct their own knowledge and develop their personal learning network from the nodes and connections in the digital environment. Mak, Williams and Mackness (2010) indicated that interaction in MOOCs helps students to develop their own ideas, express themselves, establish a presence, and make thoughtful long-term relationships. In addition, Chamberlin & Parish (2011) pointed out the importance of interaction in MOOCs, saying that "all the work within the MOOC should be shared with everyone else:

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

readings, discussions, repurposing of material, etc. The idea is that the more you engage within the course and with other participants, the more you will learn". That's why many interaction tools are offered in MOOCs to enhance interaction, and give the learners as much choice and freedom as possible of using such tools. Some learners participate only in the discussion forums, others participate only in their personal blogs, and some learners use both blogs and forums for communicating and exchange ideas in the MOOCs (Mak, Williams & Mackness, 2010). Other learners set up their own social network, Facebook pages, wikis, YouTube channels, Twitter, and Google+ accounts or created their own mailing lists and scheduled regular online meeting times. Waard (2011) pointed out that the most commonly interaction tools that used in MOOCs are: • Wiki: it is an ideal tool to set up course syllabus, • Discussion groups or list-server (e.g. Google groups) which enables sharing discussions online • Microblogging (e.g. Twitter) allows a quick exchange of resources and thoughts • Social bookmarking (e.g. delicious) that helps participants to share resources on the web and to be retrieved later on • Virtual classrooms (e.g., Elluminate) which enable synchronous sessions in the way learners can put forward different questions; they also allow more human, immediate interaction to occur. But, according to (Mak, Williams & Mackness, 2010, p275) blogs and discussion forums are the most interaction tools that are used in MOOCs. Blogs can give students a social presence (Anderson, 2005), it can be a medium for connection, self expression, self indulgence, rich and critical distribution of information (Macduff, 2009), a possibility for recording, revisiting, and reflecting upon experiences (Xie & Sharma, 2005) and also for sharing knowledge, opinions, as well as collaborating with the whole world (Ebner & Maurer, 2007). Forums provide the bulk of asynchronous communication and instructional interaction. They enhance networking opportunities and increase opportunities for consultation and collaboration with others (Anderson & Kanuka, 1997). As discussed above, though the literature showed the importance of online interaction in MOOCs a lot, there are no recommended guidelines or overview for online interaction in MOOCs. In addition, there is a lacking of research on this topic. That's why

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

the present study addresses this research gap and reveals areas wherein MOOCs interaction is essential.

Research Questions
The purpose of this study is to give a practical review on interaction possibilities in today's MOOCs by investigating what the interactions in MOOCs are about, and how the three types of interaction actually take place in MOOCs. The three types of interaction focused on in this study are “student to student” interaction which occurs when students work or communicate with each other in small or large groups or on an individual basis, “student to instructor” interaction which occurs when the instructor and students work and communicate with each other, and “student to content” interaction which allows students to navigate through the online instruction. Driven by this overarching research purpose, three specific research questions are raised for this study: • What are the interactions (discussions) in MOOCs about? • How do the three types of interaction “students to student”, “student to instructor”, and “student to content” according to (Moore, 1989) take place in MOOCs? • Which type of interaction is the most used one in MOOCs?

Methodology
This study aims to examin interaction in MOOCs. The framework of research is using descriptive research methodologies to provide an accurate description of the interactions taking place in MOOCs. According to Gall (Gall et al., 1999) descriptive research involves the collection of data in order to provide an accurate description of people, events, or processes. Hara (Hara et al., 2000) and Meyer (2004) highlight the need for careful descriptive research and content analysis of individual postings since quantitative studies that merely count the number of postings may not necessarily lead to an understanding of what actually happened in the interactions. The data source of this research is from 30 MOOCs analyses of the course documents, class discussions, and interaction tools. In addition, interactions and discussion threads posted by students and instructors in MOOCs are examined.

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

Table 1 The chosen 30 MOOCs that used to collect the research data
platform Udacity 6 MOOCs Number of MOOCs Name of MOOCs Introduction to Artificial Intelligence CS 101: Building a Search Engine Introduction to Computer Science Building a Search EngineCS101 Introduction to Physics Web Development Coursera 6 MOOCs Access Your Genius with Richard Wilkins Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics Model Thinking Securing Digital Democracy Introduction to Mathematical Thinking A History of the World since 1300 Drugs and the Brain 5 Steps to Get the 3 Results You Want Most! Getting things done. Every day mind mastery Access Your Genius with Richard Wilkins Beginner's Korean for English Speakers Better Credit Blueprint Introduction to Solid State Chemistry 6 MOOCs Circuits and Electronics Introduction to Computer Science 1 Foundation ofComputer Graphics Artificial Intelligence Software as A service Banking and money Biology History User and interaction Chemistry Art history

Udemy 6 MOOCs

edX

Khan Academy

6 MOOCs

The authors selected these 30 MOOCs (see table 1) because they are the most popular courses taught by celebrities from Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. They range from the well-known instructors David Evans, Google

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

research director Peter Norvig, who taught “Building a Search Engine”, and Sebastian Thrun, who taught “introduction to artificial intelligence” to education “rock stars” like Howard Rheingold and Michael Sandel. These 30 MOOCs attracted thousand of learners, not just because of celebrity status of professors who taught, but also because of its content. They deal with information technology, engineering, science, and humanities subjects, offered by the most popular platforms (coursera, edx, udacity, udemy, and Khan Academy).

Results and discussions
Research question 1: What are the interactions (discussions) in MOOCs about? To answer this question, interactions and discussion threads posted by students in 30 MOOCs of different subjects were examined post by post. The description of what these interactions (discussions) are about are displaying in the table 2: Table 2 Summary of what the interactions in MOOCs are about discussion posts about
General Discussion
Examples of posting Name of course

“Hello everyone,
Will I get a certificate (or statement of accomplishment) after completing this class? I didn't find any information in that regard. Best, Siavash”

Introduction to Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics https://class.coursera.org/ compfinance002/forum/thread?thread _id=2 Web Development https://forums.udacity.co m/questions/6000647/ho w-many-courses-neededfor-udacity-degree#cs253

“Just wondering out loud. Now that I think I
am committed to getting a Udacity degree, I'd like to be amongst the first to graduate. Assuming that this is a hexamester schedule. A normal CS degree has 3 years = 6 semester. We are aiming at handing out a degree in 1 year's time. If that's the case, is it possible to interlace the start time of certain classes so that the finals aren't all bunched together in the same week? This will allow people to take more than 2 classes at a time. If my experience serves as a

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

good guide 2 finals in a week is just right. ”

Lectures

“I'm sorry but I didn't understand from this
video what Quantum mechanics has to do with your 13 times 4 program. Not once do you mention the program. You might have to be more explicit for those of us who don't know that much about quantum mechanics ”

Everyday Mind Mastery

Assignments

http://www.udemy.com/e veryday-mindmastery/#question/29699 CS50x Introduction to “On lecture 4, minute 15. Is there a coincidence that both integer has the Computer Science I same name? I'm talking about int sum that appears "inside int main(void)" and the other http://apps.cs50.edx.org/ one that appears inside discuss/thread/18041 "int sigma(int number)" ” Introduction to Physics “Good Evening, https://forums.udacity.co I am contacting on behalf of a homework m/questions/100011249/ question (#5) in Unit 1. I did all of the right unit-1-homework-5work, but still proceeded to get the answer same-work-samewrong. So I did it again, same outcome. I numbers-plugged-inplugged in the exact data from the page, and wrong-answer#ph100 still the wrong answer. I got everything right until the division of the diameter of the moon being 3,470 and the tangent of .5. I keep ending up with 6,351.79. Please tell me what I am doing wrong please, or if it's just a hiccup in the lesson. Thank You. Cody Putnam”

“I took quiz 2 twice on Dec. 24th. I checked
to make sure they went through and they had but “yesterday when I went to take quiz 3, it read that I had not taken quiz 2. Is there any way of rectifying this? Thank you”.

Drugs and the Brain https://class.coursera.org/ drugsandbrain-2012001/forum/thread?thread _id=704

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

Technical feedback

“Hi, just joined cs271 but unable to hear the
audio when video is paused and played. I request you to kindly do the needful i am looking forward to take my classes”.

Introduction to artificial intelligence https://forums.udacity.co m/questions/100011494/ unit1-3-in-cs-271-audionot-working#cs271 Access Your Genius with Richard Wilkins http://www.udemy.com/a ccess-your-genius/ Introduction to Computer Science https://forums.udacity.co m/questions/100012077/ ukraine-studygroup#cs101 A History of the World since 1300 https://class.coursera.org/ wh1300-2012001/forum/thread?thread _id=13

“Hi - I have downloaded to watch and
complete on iPad but it won't play :-( suggestion”

Study group

“Is anyone here from Ukraine wants to make study group? ”

“ Hi! How many Brazilians are there in this
course? Where are you from? What have you studied and where? Why did you decide to take this course? Have you already taken other Coursera courses? I come from Fortaleza and now live in Spain. I studied Psychology and Law in Brazil and here in Oviedo I got my PhD in Law. This is not my first Coursera course. In fact, this is the fourth one (the three others, in this order, "Introduction to Sociology"; "Internet, History, Technology, and Security" and "Introduction to Sustainability"). As a way of welcoming all of you, I'd like to offer a link that seems to me to be very interesting. It's about an interview of VEJA with Professor Jeremy Adelman: http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/educ acao/brasil-nao-esta-na-periferia-doconhecimento-diz-responsavel-pelainternacionalizacao-da-universidadeprinceton”

According to table 2 interactions in MOOCs are about: Lectures: Most of discussions in MOOCs were about lectures. These discussions provide a venue for students to work together, to identify their challenges with lecture topics for further exploration, and to review course

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

materials. Discussions about lectures create an interactive environment where learners engage, build knowledge, apply critical thinking, and articulate ideas to each other, regardless of the different levels of abilities. Assignments: Students posted many contributions to discussions threads in MOOCs about assignments. They may ask for their classmates help to do their assignment or to clarify something unclear. For some students assignments often cause mental stress and difficulties. That's why most of the students require assistance for doing assignment. Asking other classmates provides interactive and convenient methods of doing assignments. Study groups: Study group discussions provide students with a sense of community in MOOC, deepen their understanding of complex concepts, and maybe even make a few new friends. General Discussion: The analysis found some general discussions in MOOCs where students discuss anything. Students do not want interaction to be limited to academic topics, but also want to know each other better and to build a more cohesive learning community. Technical feedback: The research findings show that there were little discussions about technical feedback in MOOCs. Technical feedback discussions are about video playback issues, 404 errors, other technical issues, or bugs within the MOOC. Research question 2: How do the three types of interaction “students to student”, “student to instructor”, and “student to content” according to (Moore, 1989) take place in MOOCs? The researchers examined all course documents, discussion threads posted by students and instructors, as well as further activities to investigate the way the three types of interactions (“students to student”, “student to instructor”, and “student to content”) happen in MOOCs. The ways in which the three types of interaction take place can be found in table 3. Table 3 The ways the three types of interaction take place Type of interaction Student to student Social networks Discussion group Meet up
Course using Course not using Percentage of usage 100% 80% 20%

30 24 6

0 6 24

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

Student to instructor Announcements Guides Participate in online discussion with students Ask and answer questions Student to content Homework assignments Quizzes and tests Activities and Submitting projects

12 6 6 6 24 18 6

18 24 24 24 6 12 24

30% 20% 20% 20% 80% 60% 20%

Student to student interaction: Social networks are widely used in MOOCs. Twitter allows a quick exchange of resources and thoughts. Facebook helps learners to share resources on the web that can be retrieved later on. Blogs can give students a social presence, self expression, self indulgence, rich and critical distribution of information Wikis allow students themselves to easily add, remove, or otherwise edit and change some available content, sometimes without the need for registration. Discussion groups are the next most commonly used tool in “students to student” interaction. They enhance networking opportunities and increase opportunities for consultation as well as collaboration with others while 20% percent of “students to student” interaction happened through meet up tools. Student to instructor interaction: Based on the results reported in table 3, most of “student to instructor” interactions take place through announcements. This is because announcements can be used in a variety of ways to push important information to students in MOOCs. In addition they help instructors to “write once so many can read.” This allows MOOCs instructors to provide general information from a single location with the assurance that all students are receiving the information. While only a limited number of instructors used the tools "guides", "participate in online discussion with students", and "ask and answer questions" to interact with their students. Student to content interaction: As it is reported in table 3 the most commonly interaction way that was used for “student to content” interaction is according to homework assignments. They help students to apply information previously learned in online classes. Homework assignments are short tasks that provide students immediately with feedback. In the same way, quizzes and tests are used widely in “student to

Draft version: Khalil, H., Ebner, M. (2013) Interaction Possibilities in MOOCs – How Do They Actually Happen?, International Conference on Higher Education Development, p. 1-24, Mansoura University, Egypt

content” interaction. With quizzes and tests, students take the entire assignment without feedback or the assistance of learning aids. Unlike homework assignments, a student can only receive feedback on a test or quiz once after its submission (Dorsey, 2011). They allow students to keep up with the material and provide them with valuable formative feedback on what concepts they need to review. Moreover, these online quizzes and tests allow students to see how the concepts they are learning in lectures apply in the real world. Due to the lack of the instructor’s role, using various strategies and instructional activities to deepen the learner´s understanding of the subject matter, little of “student to content” interaction in MOOCs happened through activities and submitting projects. Research question 3: Which type of interaction is the most used one in MOOCs? As noted in table 3, “student to student” interaction is the most type of interaction that is currently used in MOOCs. This is because all MOOCs provide social networks tools (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, wikis, YouTube, or Google+) that increase “student to student” interactions as well as students satisfaction and students performance. “Student to student” interaction is probably an absolute necessity for maximal achievement, socialization, and healthy development. It can foster learning through student collaboration and knowledge sharing (Sher, 2004). Blake (2009) discovered that students' interaction in online environment had significantly higher gains than those in a control environment with no “student to student” interaction. In addition, students have such sense of community, which leads to student satisfaction, retention, and increased learning. Faust and Courenay (2002) assert that interactions between students fell into one of two categories: social interactions or course focused interactions. Based on their findings, four conclusions pertaining to “student to student” interactions include: 1. The structure of the course influences student participation and “student to student” interaction. 2. The interaction tools that are available in the course enhance participation. 3. Discussion patterns established early hinder some students' participation. 4. The social climate affects participation. This finding is in line with a recent study by Murray, Giest and Hedrick (2012) who suggested that interaction between students is considered fundamental in MOOCs. It provides students with the feedback

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they need to determine when they are mastering the content of the course. Additionally it makes students become more actively engaged in the learning process, even leading to higher levels of learning. Based on the results reported in table 3 “student to content” interaction is the next most used type of interaction in MOOCs. Moore (1993) explained that without “learner to content” interaction, little or no learning would occur. He pointed out that “learner to content” interaction is the most basic form of interactivity in distance education. The learner gains and constructs knowledge by working with the subject matter. Similarly, Anderson (2003) theorizes that deep and meaningful learning takes place when “student to content” interaction is supported at a high level. Moreover, Eom and Wen (2006) suggested that interaction between “students and content” has been shown to be particularly crucial to learning in an asynchronous online course. In contrast little interactions in MOOCs are happening between students and instructor. This result corroborates findings by Green (Green et al., 2012) who indicated that the early critiques facing MOOCs is the lack of “student to instructor” interaction. According to Pattillo (2005) one of the reasons for that is also the massive workload, because instructors don't have enough time and effort to interact with all students who enrolled in their online courses. Furthermore, Shivers and Rasmussen (2006) stated that instructors' lack of expertise with web based technology and pedagogy may be added to their teaching time and effort. Likewise, faculty member doesn't always realize “instructor to student” interactions involve new skills in terms of time management and engaging students in communication (Easton, 2003). Instructor may not know what is appropriate in terms of the time and frequency of communicating with students (Shivers, 2009). Furthermore, instructors may feel compelled to spend plenty of time interacting with students (Gresh & Mrozowski, 2000). Finally, Su (Su et al., 2005) suggested that the lack of “student to instructor” interaction occurs due to the lack of instructional activities and technologies that are used to promote interactions. Thus, it seems obviously that there is a need to use instructional techniques and activities that can promote and enhance “students to instructor” interaction in MOOCs.

Conclusion
Because the number of MOOCs in higher education grows continuously (Markoff, 2013), one area that has been identified as an important factor affecting students’ learning experiences is students´

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interaction. Interaction in learning settings is a necessary and fundamental process for knowledge acquisition and cognitive development (Murray et al, 2012). Three main types of interaction are identified and focused. According to Moore (1989) the study deals with “student to student”, “student to instructor”, and “student to content” interaction. Although interaction is often viewed as necessary and important factor affecting students’ learning experiences in MOOCs, there is no clear strategy or hints of how online interaction should happen in MOOCs best so far. As a result, the present study addressed this research gap and reveals areas wherein MOOCs interaction is essential. The three research questions posed are answered as follows. For the first question, discussions in MOOCs are categorized in concerning lectures, study groups, assignments as well as technical feedback. Discussions about lectures create an interactive environment where learners engage, build knowledge, apply critical thinking, and articulate ideas to each other. Discussions about assignments provide interactive and convenient methods of doing assignments. Study group discussions provide students with a sense of community, increase their knowledge, and deepen their understanding, whereas the study found little discussions about technical feedback. For the second question, interaction tools such as social networks (like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, or Google+) as well as discussion forums are used widely for “student to student” interaction. While little interaction happened through meet up tools. Interaction tools such as quizzes, assignments, and tests are the most commonly interaction ways that were used for “student to content” interaction. Whereas, little “student to instructor” interaction happened in MOOCs through announcements, guides, asking and answering questions, or participating in discussion. For the final question, “student to student” interaction is the most type of interaction that is used in MOOCs. In the same way, “student to content” is the next most used type of interaction in MOOCs. Whereas, little interactions in MOOCs are happening between “students and instructor” due to instructor's lack of expertise with web based technology and pedagogy. Finally, they may not know the appropriate instructional activities and technologies that are used to promote interactions. Since “student to instructor” interaction is missed in MOOCs, future studies should be carried out to suggest more strategies and instructional activities that promote and enhance MOOCs “student to instructor” interactions. In addition, future researches should be done to employ using MOOCs in Egyptian universities in order to provide innovative solutions to

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problems such as over-crowded classrooms, high prices of traditional educational books, transportation problems, need for continued education, and specialized training.

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