MOOCs have emerged as a popular mode of learning that is now being widely-researched as a development in distance education. MOOCs offer materials such as video lessons, readings, peer to peer activities, provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among learners, educators and facilitators. The need to incorporate greater access in Open Education and MOOCs for those who declare disabilities is a factor being highlighted (US Departnent of Justice, 2015; Inside Higher Ed, 2016).
For this research project, we are employing a mixed methods-research programme to understand the complexity of the issues related to disability and MOOCs. In qualitative studies involving interviews, we have explored learner expectations and educators’ viewpoints on how MOOCs can be valuable for disabled learners; and quantitative analysis of survey data has provided an understanding of the demographics of disabled learners who take up MOOCs. To assess the current state of MOOC accessibility, we are designing a MOOC accessibility audit to evaluate MOOCs. This mixed methods research approach will yield guidelines for the design of MOOC platforms that meet the needs of disabled learners.
This presentation is focused on those two qualitative studies based on semi-structured interviews, including a study with 26 participants that was conducted to understand the perspectives of MOOC providers on accessibility. Participants in these interviews worked across several roles, including the MOOC producers, who include platform and course providers, and researchers in the MOOC community. A total of 15 disabled learners who had responded to the “Authors” University MOOCs surveys in FutureLearn and were willing to be contacted for research purposes have been approached by us for an interview. These semi-structured interviews were conducted to understand on one hand the knowledge about disabled learners and the accessibility from the perspective of course providers and design of accessible MOOC platforms; on the other hand the expectations of disabled learners from MOOCs and the current barriers they experience in their learning due to ‘inaccessible’ design of MOOCs and how improvements could be made to improve their learning experience. In both scenarios, the semi-structured nature of the interviews enabled us to expand on the interviewee’s comments during the interview. An inductive approach to coding the interviews was followed on the complete transcripts. The transcripts were read and annotated using the six-phase thematic analysis methodology by Braun and Clarke (2006). In the analysis of the interviews, we have identified open education aspects in MOOCs were a key point of interest for both MOOC providers and disabled learners.
US Departnent of Justice. (2015). Justice Department Reaches Settlement with edX Inc. Available at: http://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/united-states-reaches-settlement-provider-massive-open-online-courses-make-its-content [Accessed Oct 2017]
Inside Higher Ed. (2016). University May Remove Online Content to Avoid Disability Law. U.S. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/20/berkeley-may-remove-free-online-content-rather-complying-disability-law [Accessed Oct 2017]
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic coding in psychology. Qualitative research in Psychology. 3 (2) pp. 77-101. ISSN 1478-0887