Monday, 17 June 2013

Meet the researchers - An interview with Manuela Milani

The ongoing MOOC revolution is sparking interest from researcher all over the world. Today The Good MOOC interviews one such researcher, Manuela Milani.

  • Can you introduce yourself?

I'm Manuela, 44 years old, single mother of Edoardo, 3 years and a half.

I'm an instructional designer at CTU - eLearning Centre of the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy and I'm a PhD student at the Université Cergy-Pontoise in France.

My PhD research is about cultural differences in online designing and teaching.

  • Can you further describe your research?

My main interest is in understanding how cultural differences impact online designing and teaching, mainly in an academic context.

The final part of my thesis will be about MOOCs, going back always to my main focus: culture and cultural differences (I do not adopt a definition of culture as a synonymous of nation but I'm using a larger articulation of the definition, including also disciplinary culture, institutional culture and so on).

For this purpose, I am carrying out a survey to collect information from teachers, tutors, instructional designers and any other educational actors who have been involved with MOOCs.

  • What do you hope to accomplish by carrying out this research?

To quote my PhD project thesis: “What did academics, who were experienced in the development and delivery of online units, regard as cultures and cultural diversity? How did cultures and cultural diversity manifest themselves in the teaching online process? Only answering these questions, articulating the concept of culture into different dimensions, could allow accommodating cultural diversity in an online learning environment, including MOOCs.”

  • Where does your interest in MOOCs comes from?

My interest in MOOCs comes from two different sides: my research activity and my professional activity. In this second case the interest is focused on understanding if and how a european university could be part of the MOOC movement, defining first of all its strengths and risks.  

  • Have you taken MOOCs yourself?

  • Which were your favourites and why?

I would say that a good MOOC is a MOOC where the learning objectives are made clear at the start and the workload is realistic (true for any good course for that matter).

  • How do you see MOOCs evolving in the future?

Obviously, this is a tough one.
Things will probably become clearer during the upcoming year about this “wave” of MOOCs.
I think we can identify two different sides to the  MOOCs phenomenon, the US side and the EU side.
Looking at the MOOCs from the US side there is a regular increase of interest, of the number of courses and of the number of course partners.

On the EU side, it seems to me that the decision to be part of a MOOC platform or to offer a MOOC is mainly a "marketing" decision. At the same time the administrative and political decisions on credits recognition will play a relevant part in the acceptance of MOOCs in EU, where ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) took so many years to be implemented.

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