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The Language Learning Potential of Repurposed MOOCs

Despite the recent hype surrounding the arrival of MOOCs on the academic horizon (Barber et al. 2013) there remains a discernible dearth of published academic papers evaluating the potential of MOOCs for Second Language Acquisition. On a more generic front there are a few notable exceptions (Harman, 2014; Morris, 2014), however, there is nothing of substance to report on the SLA potential of MOOCs. In attempting to redress this imbalance, this presentation will report on the experiential and reflective findings of a group of postgraduate researchers and lecturers who completed a range of MOOCs, delivered by FutureLearn and designed and voiced by "leading UK and international universities" (
We set ourselves the tasks of completing these MOOCs and evaluating them critically with iterative and summative methods in order to explore their potential use in various learning environments for Second Language Acquisition purposes. The evaluation group is composed of: MA TESOL students who will be working in various levels of education in various countries; PhD TESOL students who are early career researchers and tutors, hailing from diverse countries and finally, established lecturers researching and teaching in SLA at tertiary level.
We are aware of the ongoing 'rancorous debate' surrounding MOOCs and in completing our evaluation, we have kept in mind the comments of Kirschner (2012), a pioneer in online education who declared that those colleges currently making modest R and D investment in MOOCs have: "faculty members [who] are excited about the opportunity to experiment, [she] suggests giving this explosion of pent-up innovation in higher education a chance to mature before rushing to the bottom line. It is too soon to declare MOOCs either a silly fad or a silver bullet."
Education technology consultants have argued that: “The problem with this MOOC-as-labor-issue argument is that it has no place for students and learning. Our starting point ought to be what students need and whether this is an effective form of learning” (Hill, 2012).
Following this starting point then, we will report on a range of MOOCs, their potential for repurposing for SLA and propose design features for future SLA MOOCs, bearing in mind Kirschner's caveat that: "There is concern over completion rates and whether colleges are 'giving away the farm'".
Barber, Michael, et al. "An avalanche is coming." Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead, IPPR2013, Pearson Publications (2013).
Harman, J. (2014) What have we learned: the pedagogic perspective; presentation at MOOCs Conference, MOOCs: What we have learned, emerging themes and what next Senate House, University of London Tuesday 28 January 2014.
Hill, P. (2013) New York Times, June 19th 2013
Kirschner, J. Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct 2012
Morris, N. (2014) What We have Learned, presentation at MOOCs Conference, MOOCs: What we have learned, emerging themes and what next Senate House, University of London Tuesday 28 January 2014.


Liam Murray    
University of Limerick

Liam Murray teaches courses at the University of Limerick, Ireland, on Computer-Assisted Language Learning, digital games-based language learning, cyberculture, e-learning and evaluation at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Areas of research interest include CALL, DGBLL and the application of Social Media and blog writing to second language acquisition. He is at present software reviews editor, of the international journal ReCALL.


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