Doctoral thesis

Exploring the experiences of instructors teaching massive open online courses in tourism and hospitality : a mixed methods approach


208 p.

Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2018 (jury note: Magna cum laude)

English Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have existed as a disruptive educational phenomenon for nine years. Grounded in the roots of distance education, open education, Open Educational Resources, and OpenCourseWare, MOOCs have now survived various critics and have continued growing globally. Reports about MOOCs in both the press and scholarly publications began to grow significantly in 2013 (Sánchez-Vera, Leon Urrutia, & Davis, 2015; Zancanaro & Domingues, 2017) and, since then, more and more researchers have joined the discussions, developing them to explore various new topics. To contribute to the literature of MOOC studies, this doctoral thesis begins with an in-depth analysis of the background, history, growth, and vision, and proposes a tentative definition of MOOCs. Meanwhile, by conducting bibliometric research to review MOOC studies conducted between 2015 and 2017, this thesis fills in the gap that has existed due to a lack of systematic reviews of MOOC literature since 2015. The results of the bibliometric research summarised the relevant MOOC research into nine categories, including learner focused, commentary and concepts, case reports or evaluations, pedagogy, curriculum and design, course object focused, provider focused, technology, systematic review of literature, and learning analytics and big data. They also suggested a limited amount of provider focused research, which became the research interest and focus of this thesis. In the centre of the Europe, Swiss universities have marched forward in the MOOC movement, together with other over 550 universities (Shah, 2016) around the world. Università della Svizzera italiana (USI; Lugano, Switzerland), a Swiss public university, became a MOOC provider in 2015 and offered the first MOOC in the topic of eTourism: eTourism: Communication Perspectives. This doctoral thesis is closely related to this university-level initiative, which was dedicated to producing the first pilot MOOC at USI. Therefore, the cases chosen by this thesis are positioned in the discipline of tourism and hospitality. The first MOOC with a large audience taught artificial intelligence in 2011 (Zancanaro & Domingues, 2017). Nowadays, MOOCs have broken the barrier of space and time to educate the masses in a wide range of subjects. However, the provision of MOOCs in the subject of tourism and hospitality did not appear until 2013, when two MOOCs from two American universities became available. In the past four years since these MOOCs were launched, the number of tourism and hospitality MOOCs available in the market has remained limited (Tracey, Murphy, & Horton-Tognazzini, 2016). This scarcity contradicts the fact that tourism and hospitality is the field that contributes the most to the employment of the global workforce. Pressing problems, such as high turnover, seasonality, and new global challenges have urged for solutions to quickly training people working in this area to become available (Cantoni, Kalbaska, & Inversini, 2009). A call for more studies about tourism and hospitality MOOCs has emerged. The combined reality of the lack of studies regarding MOOC providers, opportunities for first-hand experience of producing a tourism MOOC in a university, and the deficiency in both the research and practises of tourism and hospitality MOOCs has inspired the direction of this thesis in regard to exploring MOOC instructors’ experiences, using cases in the field of tourism and hospitality. It cumulates six studies, using a mixed methods approach, to tackle the two main research objectives: to investigate at large the tourism and hospitality MOOC provisions between 2008 and 2015 and to report the experiences of Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) when producing the eTourism MOOC. In order, the first two studies in Chapter 3 of this thesis focus on tourism and hospitality MOOCs in general and produce a big picture context for the other four studies in Chapter 4. The first study proposes a conceptual framework through which to describe and analyse the course design of a MOOC and applies it to 18 tourism and hospitality MOOCs produced between 2008 and 2015. The second study then continues to interview six tourism and hospitality MOOC instructors, to describe their experiences and perspectives of teaching MOOCs. After exploring a holistic view of the overall development of MOOCs in tourism and hospitality and gaining a deep understanding of the instructors behind these offerings, this thesis introduces the experiences of one single MOOC provider: Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Chapter 4. It first introduces its overall implementation process (Study 3), and further elaborates three phases of this process: how it selected a suitable MOOC platform at the beginning (Study 4); how it assessed learner engagement in the MOOC (Study 5); and, eventually, how it evaluated the performance of the MOOC (Study 6). This thesis was written mainly from the perspective of eLearning, with the intention of benefiting its community of scholars and practitioners. It has contributed to the literature by developing a framework with which to review MOOCs (in Study 1), the implementation process of producing MOOCs (in Study 2), practical review schema of MOOC platforms (in Study 4), the MOOC Learner Engagement Online Survey (in Study 5), and how to use the Kirkpatrick model to evaluate MOOCs (in Study 6). These conceptual frameworks and experiential tools can benefit future researchers and practitioners. Meanwhile, due to its intimate connection with the field of tourism and hospitality, by directly using its cases, the research outputs of the six studies can also benefit the tourism and hospitality education and training sector as a reference for further action.
  • English
Education, teaching
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