【Research Plan】Community Building for xMOOC in Post-MOOC Era

Hi everyone! This is M1 Zhou Qiaochu from China. I start my master in ITASIA program at the University of Tokyo this fall and am lucky to be at Yamauchi Laboratory with all of you.

I graduated in 2016 with B.A. in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign language. It was my internship in an International School and the popularity of our generation utilizing the online learning that aroused my great interest in MOOC studies. Having been to the seminar twice after enrollment, I am really inspired by the diversity of research fields in our laboratory. I will also exert myself for the research.


Stepping into the post-MOOC era, xMOOC where the x stands for extended (as in TEDx, edX) is expected to gain more momentum than cMOOC. It is revolutionizing the way the knowledge is distributed. However, xMOOC has encountered several impediments, most notably, an excessive dropout rate, less effective results and the lack of specific and effective teaching structure. My study, then, will consider the effectiveness of community building in online courses to address some of these problems.

One tentative answer can be, not everyone can learn in a purely digital environment. In other words, technology will not automatically afford specific learning outcomes. The most important thing that helps students succeed in an online course can be the interpersonal interaction and support. The "empathy" theory by Holmberg was among the earliest attempts to stress emotional affordance in distance education. Now, even more powerful influence between participants on the creation of empathy in MOOCs, the community, is garnering attention.

As for community in xMOOCs, it does have direct correlation with emotional effects and improved completion rate. With interaction online or offline, learners find a sense of belonging. Because there is non-academic or social side in the learning processes, to reinforce group membership, being perceived as an in-group member, making MOOC a connectivist learning platform where interactions among participants are the pillar of knowledge creation. Ultimately, for best results, it should be community of learning and community of practice.

【Focus and Goal】

The specific focus of my research is the importance and thus improvement of community support in the virtual learning environment especially with the following questions. First, to what extent can community support improve xMOOC effectiveness? Second, to what extent will a balance between online and offline community building efforts improve xMOOC effectiveness? Third, what features of social interaction are currently absent from xMOOC? Fourth, in what ways, if any, will building online community be potentially counterproductive?

The ultimate goal of this research is to explore possible answers to the above questions, with sample from established online international education sites such as edX, Coursera, Udacity and other major Chinese xMOOC sites as well as representative individual surveys. I wish to fulfill the goal during my two years master. Also, I would improve my Japanese to get better understanding for everything here. 皆様、これから宜しくお願い致します!

【Zhou Qiaochu】