Nashwa Ismail and Christothea Herodotou
The Case of nQuire?
nQuire is a web-based platform developed by The Open University in partnership with the BBC to encourage members of the public to participate in large-scale scientific research in order to develop their scientific knowledge and skills. Pedagogically, on nQuire, users gain the benefits of reading about the science behind research, ask questions and gain personalised feedback when submitting their responses. Socially, they can learn through discussions with other contributors including scientists who set up the research or other facilitators (Scanlon et al.2020). The role of facilitators or moderators in investigations has not been examined yet, nor its potential significance to facilitate participants’ learning (Herodotou et al.2020). In this study, we examined the possibility of learners joining a specific nQuire investigation and what they could learn from it (RQ1) and the role of a facilitator in moderating and facilitating learning (RQ2).
The study context investigates how educators in Africa have modified their teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provide remote teaching (The Open University, 2020). The nQuire mission was part of an 8-week online professional development programme with over 500 Higher Education academics from 21 African countries. Mission has two key parts; firstly, “Contributions”, where participants were given 5 questions (4 open-ended and 1 close-ended) to respond and reflect around their current experience in shifting to online teaching. Secondly, “Discussion”, where participants could extend their reflection on ideas and views beyond the given 5 questions. The mission has 63 contributions and 146 comments. Participants’ responses in both parts were thematically analysed to answer RQ1. With regards to RQ2, discursive analysis has been conducted to analyse the self-reflection report submitted by the education expert in this mission which details the probing, inputs and interventions made on participants’ comments on the nQuire mission.
RQ1: nQuire offers 2 main learning opportunities for educators in this mission; firstly, learning through social interaction; where educators shared and discussed challenges, opportunities, and experiences. Secondly, nQuire provides a platform for deep learning, where educators relate knowledge across the programme by linking between the taught programmes and have discussions on the affordability and applicability of these concepts in real life scenarios. Participants discussed the evolved topics on nQuire further using “Telegram” as a social network platform in the programme. This observation shows that social discussions can be improved in future work by adding a discussion board to nQuire, or extending the outcome of these discussions to develop phase 2 for the same mission.
RQ2: The role of the educational expert on nQuire is to act as; e-moderator that encourages discussion and two-way communication, e-mentor to support students’ deep learning and improve learning outcomes and e-facilitator to provide learning resources, probing questions and sharing experiences. The educational expert self-report highlights that learning about the participants’ background, local experience and context of the mission is needed prior to the mission to be able to respond, support and provide feasible and contextual feedback to learners. Finally, few participants replied to the educator’s comments, which can be explained in future work.
Herodotou, C., Sharples, M .and Scanlon, E. (2020). Can technology empower the public to think scientifically? The case of nQuire. In: International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2020), 19-23 Jun 2020, Nashville, TN, USA.
Scanlon, E., Herodotou, C., Sharples, M .and McLeod, K. (2020). nQuire: citizens acting as scientists in massive open online learning. In: L@S ’20: Proceedings of the Seventh ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale, 12-14 Aug 2020, Virtual event, USA.
The Open University (2020) Remote teaching in Africa, nQuire, Online Available at:https://nquire.org.uk/mission/remote-teaching-in-africa (Accessed:31/01/2021)
- Citizen Science