MOOC Appropriation and Agency in Face-to-Face Learning Communities
The emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has fostered the creation of co-located learning communities; however, there is limited research on the types of interactions unfolding in these spaces.
This study explores Peer 2 Peer University’s Learning Circles, a project that allows individuals to take MOOCs together at the library. I investigated the patterns that emerged from the interactions between facilitators, learners, course materials, and digital media in the pilot round of these Learning Circles.
This study employs an ethnography of hybrid spaces (online/offline participant observations, in-depth interviews, and artifact collection) of face-to-face study groups taking place at library branches in a Midwest metropolitan area. Data analysis employs the constant comparison method.
Interactions taking place in the Learning Circles increased individuals’ agency as learners and subverted the MOOC model through processes of technological appropriation.
The findings reveal that interactions within Learning Circles created a dynamic negotiation of roles, produced tension points, enabled a distributed model of knowledge, and structured study routines. The pilot round of Learning Circles attracted diverse participants beyond the typical digitally literate MOOC student. Many of them had no previous experience taking online courses and, in some cases, no Internet connection at home. This paper argues that Learning Circles favored the appropriation of artifacts (technologies) and increased participants’ agency as learners in the Internet age.
Practitioners can use the Learning Circles model to benefit disenfranchised individuals by providing them with access to materials resources and a network of peers that can help increase their agency as learners.
This study suggests that it is fundamental to pay attention to learning initiatives that are unfolding outside the scope of traditional and formal education.
Open educational resources and public libraries are opening new pathways for learning beyond traditional higher education institutions.
Future research can explore how the learning circles are adapted in cultural contexts outside the United States.