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Have disruptive innovations arrived at the gates of academia?

TitleHave disruptive innovations arrived at the gates of academia?
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsSantandreu, D.
AdvisorFalconer, L.
DegreeFaculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education: Department of Education and Childhood
Number of Pages1-378
Date Published11/2016
UniversityUniversity of the West of England
Place PublishedBristol, UK
Type of WorkThesis (PhD)
KeywordscMOOCs, competency-based learning, Connectivisim, higher education, MOOC cycle, MOOC research, persistence rates, xMOOCs

Disruptive technologies in education and particularly Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) continue to be one of the polarising and most controvertible topics in postsecondary education, as they have yet to deliver on their promises. Existing academic literature on MOOCs, the main example of disruptive technology of this thesis, is primarily concerned with student participation, persistence, completion rates and learning in MOOC platforms. There seems however to be very limited scholarly research in the UK investigating the democratising effects and impact of disruptive technologies in Higher Education, particularly the extent to which MOOCs might unlock the gates to accessibility and their impact on universities, teaching and academics, through the lens of critical theory. It is however crucial to evaluate their impact (s) to inform policy decision-making on technology enhanced-learning implementation at tertiary institutions and design of curricula. The Main Research Question (MRQ) and sub-question designed for this study were addressed by conducting eighteen semi-structured interviews (Skype and face-to-face) with participants (academic and senior administrators) from nine countries and nine institutions. The research methods used were primarily qualitative.
This thesis contributes to the field of technology-enhanced learning by addressing the current pedagogical limitations of the MOOC format which seem to be the critical impediments that prevent MOOCs, as they are currently designed, from genuinely democratising Higher Education to those who most need it in developed and developing countries. My main original contribution to knowledge is an integrated and adaptive model with critical success factors that would influence the MOOC model’s effectiveness, which, to the best of the author’s knowledge, is unique in the published literature.
The findings of this study indicate that MOOCs have democratised access to Higher Education to a certain degree but they are not considered comparable to an on-campus experience and not suitable, in their current form and design, to the needs of the underrepresented in higher education, in developed and developing countries. The findings also indicate that MOOCs are challenging the current economic, business and pedagogical models and delivery mechanisms of traditional Higher Education and these might have an important effect on the academic role and identity. Furthermore, this investigation finds that MOOCs have aroused institutions and academics’ interest in and exploration of technology-enhanced learning, particularly blended learning approaches. Finally, the findings of this study indicate that MOOCs have impelled institutions and academics to rethink the design of more engaging courses and programmes and refocus on student learning to improve online and face-to-face teaching and this added pressure might have created a schism between the educational conservatives and the advocates of reform.


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Refereed DesignationDoes Not Apply
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