Research Study: Self-regulated learning in massive open online courses

Massive Open Online Courses are still very new and it is important to conduct research to try to understand how they support different types of learning. At the Caledonian Academy, we are interested in Self-regulated learning outside formal learning contexts and we have designed a study, which aims to surface, describe and systematise the activities and strategies that adult learners use to self-regulate their learning in the context of the Change 2011 massive open online course (MOOC). Our interest is specifically in professionals’ actions – practices and strategies that they use to plan and attain their learning goals.

We are looking for volunteers to participate in this study. Anyone who has signed up for the Change11 MOOC is welcome to participate. Participation in the study will involve completion of an online questionnaire (in January/February 2012) and participation in a telephone or Skype interview (in or around March 2012).

Data collected will be accessible only by the research team at Glasgow Caledonian University (Professor Allison Littlejohn, Dr Anoush Margaryan and Dr Colin Milligan). All data will be anonymised prior to publication and participants will not be identified (or identifiable). Participants are free to withdraw from the study at any time.

If you would like to participate in the study, please enter your name and email on the page linked here: Alternatively, email me at, or tweet me @cdmilligan We will contact you in the new year with details about how to participate.

Further information on the research design: The study will examine how learners in Change 2011 MOOC plan, implement and reflect upon their learning goals, analysing similarities and differences in the use of SRL strategies between learners who are positioned on different points on the spectrum of SRL skills.  In identifying the SRL activities and strategies used by the participants, we are specifically interested in finding out how individuals draw upon available resources, such as other people and artefacts, to plan and attain their learning goals, and what tools do they use to do so. The study is guided by the following key research questions:

  1. How do participants plan, implement and reflect upon their learning goals within Change MOOC?What strategies do they use to self-regulate their learning?What tools do they use to self-regulate their learning?
  2. How do participants draw upon collective knowledge – people and other environmental resources – when planning, implementing and reflecting upon their learning goals within Change MOOC?
  3. What are the environmental factors, in particular those related to the coherence of the information space and structure of the MOOC, that constrain or enable SRL?
  4. What are the similarities and differences in the use of SRL strategies between learners who have diverse self-regulatory profiles? For example, do learners who score higher on self-regulatory skill measures use significantly different goal planning, implementation and reflection strategies than participants who score lower on the SRL measures?

Please sign up to participate in the study (here is the link again: If you have comments or questions about the study, please email me at or leave a comment below.

Author: Colin Milligan

Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

15 thoughts on “Research Study: Self-regulated learning in massive open online courses”

  1. Hi, Colin. Part of the approach that I take with self-regulated learning (at least in #change11) is not to plan, not to have goals. I do that quite purposefully because I am usually a well-organized planner in my daily life. #change11 and other moocs I’ve been part of offer me the opportunity to just jump in the water and paddle around in a refreshing way. Interestingly, I am still quite methodical in how I work through The Daily and decide what to pursue.

    Wondering how my approach fits (or doesn’t) with your study?

    1. Thanks for the comment. We have no preconceived notions of what the right approach is – amongst other things, the study aims to record patterns of participation – collecting the whole range from those who explicitly make goals, to those who purposefully don’t. It would be great to have you as a participant in the study, so please sign up if you are able to.

  2. Hi Colin,
    I have been conducting researches into MOOC since 2008, including the design and delivery of MOOC and the learning experiences of the participants in MOOC. Here are some of the related publications (with 3 papers included) and you will find my post relating to research into the design and delivery of MOOC
    I think our papers did cover part of the self-regulated learning. I hope the findings could be helpful to your research.
    I will also be researching in this Change11 MOOC. John

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