Hi folks! Just catching up on this incredibly rich discussion. It warms my heart to see that connected courses has become a place for researchers to connect on the topic of connected learning! An unexpected but most welcome tributary of the stream of connected courses!
I've been reflecting a bit with my team at the DML Hub on what our research goals are for connected courses and how that ties into the broader research agenda of our connected learning research network (clrn.dmlhub.net).
I still need to work out with my team exactly what our process and protocols will be for connected courses specific research, but it will definitely be squarely centered on work that is intended for formative feedback to course facilitators and faculty for improvement, secondarily for sustainability (by which I mean making the case for the value of ccourses for funders and the like), and not primarily (if at all) as research intended for scholarly publication and career building. I'm not foreclosing the possibility that we might have some research papers coming out about connected courses from my team, but I think it's important to be clear for our community that the fundamental purpose of our research is to support the improvement and sustainability of the practice.
This relates to some concerns that have been percolating in my mind in relation to the topic of trust that has been our focus week. As we consider projects that directly involve participants in connected courses (I realize that the majority of the research being discussed in this thread does not, actually), I feel it is important that we think through the implications for issues of vulnerability and trust that participants may experience. This is particularly true for qualitative work that draws from identifiable data like tweets and blog posts, even if the material has been posted in public. Groups like AoIR have done a lot of important work on how posts to spaces that are technically public may not be experienced as such by participants if they are posting in a context of shared purpose and trust. Often people feel that these kind of "public" posts being brought into a research paper or presentation constitute a violation of that context of trust. I know you all are highly aware of these dynamics, but I just want to call this out as an explicit topic that we probably want to discuss before any research proceeds on connected course participants. This isn't an IRB issue in my mind as much as about talking through our shared values and ethical guidelines as researchers.
Another practicality to consider for research that involves subject recruitment is not only IRB issues but the impact on the community if they are being recruited for multiple surveys, interviews, and the like.
I would want to coordinate our efforts as much as possible to avoid creating any sense that participating in this course means being in a research fishbowl. Before any research projects specific to ccourses gets baked can I suggest we come together as a research sub-community to craft some of our own research specific "community guidelines" to share with participants? This goes beyond the formal disclosures required for something like an IRB review, but is more about continuing to cultivate the spirit of trust and generosity that I see here and throughout the ccourses network, and clearly locating the research within that ethos. Maybe some of the other cMOOCs already have something along these lines? If not, then we'd be charting new ground!
My personal priority as a host of connected courses is to maintain a shared context of trust for the network, and any research we do needs to honor those values first and foremost, even if it means giving up on some juicy opportunities on the research side.
Look forward to hearing everyone's thoughts on these issues. This is not meant at all to rain on the party but really to try to move forward concretely on one of the hurdles we'll need to address if we really do want to move some research forward. In the meantime, the literature review work makes a ton of sense as a place to dig in.