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My October ended with a trip to Asia – Beijing and Manila this time. Visiting Beijing was like going back to an ever-changing hometown, while visiting Manila (where I’ve never been before) was like venturing into a rain forest. Both very exciting!

MOOCs in China: Research and Practice

Three days in Beijing was filled by a busy MOOC conference agenda, working meetings at the X-Learning Center on a MOOC project, and casual exchanges with graduate students at the Graduate School of Education at Peking University.

The MOOC Forum for Doctoral Students organized by the X-Learning Center gathered around 130 participants from around the country. Among these participants, many of them are professors who have been developing courses for iCourses, a Chinese MOOC platform that originated from the national Chinese Top Level Courses initiative (see Stian Haklev’s thesis), and xuetangX, the largest MOOC provider in China. Some other participants are involved in MOOC research, on aspects such as MOOC learners’ behavioral patterns, online discussions, dashboard design, user experiences, SPOC, MOOC quality indicators, etc. It was quite amazing to see such intensive interests first-hand – in both practice and research – even though it’s not a secret that MOOC is really ‘massive’ in such a massive country. However, I need to admit my limited understanding of MOOC research in China because of access barriers and the implicit “hierarchy” of academic journals internationally. For example, the X-Learning Center directed by Dr. Q Wang has been prolific in publishing their work on MOOCs, but it would be difficult for anyone who 1) cannot read Chinese or 2) cannot access the Chinese Academic Index to read their work. How can we do better than ‘inviting’ such scholars to publish in English?

On the final day of the conference, I presented a keynote on “Mapping the Terrain of MOOC Research,” together with Dr. Gaowei Chen from Hong Kong University who presented his research on online discussion. Aiming to inspire doctoral students, my talk was packed with a lot of stuff: a reflection on my personal MOOC journey, a bibliometrics study supported by wonderful colleagues Kris Lund and Sebastian Grauwin from Lyon, a brief exploration of research design, and a call for action to leverage MOOCs for societal changes in China. It was quite emotional to be on the stage, and some attendees told me they felt moved as well.

Mapping the Terrain of MOOC Research from Bodong Chen

The conference organizers did a terrific job documenting the conference through visual note-taking (see below). The energy I experienced from these scholars was amazing! One important intention of this conference was to develop a community of MOOC practice & research in China. I will be looking out for great work coming from this community.

Asian Open Universities, Learning Analytics

After the short stay in Beijing, three delegates of our MOOC research project funded by DL4D flied to Manila for the 30th Annual Conference of Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU). I was asked to deliver a Learning Analytics seminar and present in a session about Learning Analytics in HigherEd, both sponsored by DL4D.

I felt quite uncertain heading into the seminar filled with eighty registrants, who I knew very little about. It was challenging to lead a 3-hour seminar after getting 2 hours of sleep following a late-night flight. But the seminar went really well, with main points covered and some group interactivity taking place. I also heard a number of participants referencing the seminar during the main conference.

The enthusiasm for Learning Analytics was real among Asian Open Universities represented at the conference. The tricky part, though, is to combine such enthusiasm with local needs, interests and expertise, while also avoiding “pitfalls” documented elsewhere. Navigating this new field is challenging. As put by Dragan Gasevic (the current President of SoLAR) during his AAOU keynote, Learning Analytics is a field with kaleidoscopic interests and “one-size-fits-all” would never work. My later presentation (see below) built upon the seminar and Dragan’s keynote and presented cases at both institutional and classroom levels, highlighting especially ongoing Learning Analytics initiatives at the University of Minnesota. The Learning Analytics opportunities for Open Universities in Asia are endless, with the brand-new Asian MOOCs platform launched at the conference and their innate commitments to openness that would contribute to the young field in many ways.

Learning analytics in higher education: Promising practices and lessons learned from Bodong Chen
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Bodong Chen


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Bodong Chen, University of Minnesota

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