Singh & Morch

Instructors’ Epistemic Intervention Strategies in MOOC Discussion Forums

Ammar Bahadur Singh, Department of  Education, ICT and Learning, Østfold University College, Halden Norway
Anders Mørch, Department of Education, University of Oslo, Norway


Facilitating students’ learning in a massive open online context is challenging for instructors in online teaching. The instructors should enact their professional (epistemic) feedback-giving skills to understand when, how, and why to address learning problems. In this study, we address this issue in terms of agency and suggest strategies that teachers can use to address these problems constructively. This study examines how instructors’ professional agency comes into play in selecting how to intervene to assist students in solving problems in course discussion forums (Facebook group and Canvas discussion forums), which we refer to as an epistemic intervention strategy (EIS). By analyzing discussion forums’ dialogical posts using thematic analysis and epistemic network analysis, we found that instructors adopted five different EISs to address students’ learning. The EISs emerged during the processes of facilitating students’ learning and were influenced by the complexity of students’ questions and positioning in learning in the discussion forums. The findings of this study can inform practitioners that facilitating learning in online discussion forums may demand that instructors go beyond their feedback-giving skills to enact professional agency.

Keywords: professional agency, student agency, epistemic intervention strategy, zone of proximal development, MOOCs

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