Understanding Language MOOC Learners: The Issue of Capability Development

Nikoletta Agonács, João Filipe Matos


Having a clear understanding of the learner population has an impact on effective course design and delivery in any learning context. However, it has greater importance in a MOOC learning environment because of the high diversity of participants. Most of the review studies on MOOC research mention learner population as a recurrent theme. These studies focus on behaviours, performance, learner participation and interaction patterns, learner perceptions and preferences, learner experiences, motivation, demographics, and classifications of learners into subpopulations. Nevertheless, there is little knowledge about the learners’ perceptions of their own learning and the learning process, which is a key element of learning according to heutagogy, the theory of self-determined learning. In our study, which is based on two theoretical pillars (heutagogy and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment) we aimed at capturing traces of capability development through language MOOC learners’ reflections and identifying learning activities that are perceived by learners as preferred activities for skill acquisition in a language MOOC learning environment. We designed two open-ended questions in a survey format that were administered in an Italian language MOOC offered by Wellesley College. We were able to capture traces of capability development through learners’ reflections, and we also found that a) based on learners’ perceptions the most preferred way of acquiring new skills is through receptive activity types; b) these activity types coincide with learners’ perceptions of their own understanding (listening and reading) skill development.


capability development; heutagogy; Language MOOC; learner population

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Copyright (c) 2019 Nikoletta Agonács, João Filipe Matos

International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET) – eISSN: 1863-0383
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