A mixed-method and multidisciplinary approach to socio-cognitive conflicts in online educational platforms


This five-year Collective Research Initiative (ARC, 2019-2024) project addresses the challenges of fostering social interactions and socio-cognitive conflicts (i.e. differences in point of view that are socially experienced and cognitively resolved) to promote learning in an online learning platform. With the help of various disciplinary methodological toolkits (content analysis, corpus linguistics, and social media analytics), we investigate the presence and unfolding of socio-cognitive conflicts in the forums of massive open online courses (MOOCs) developed by LouvainX on the edX platform.

MOOC forums are a unique environment where learners with different professional experience and cultural backgrounds are invited to discuss disciplinary concepts and/or society issues that can potentially induce socio-cognitive conflicts and/or controversies. We adopt a mixed-method approach and examine the forum discussions from a multidisciplinary perspective that builds on theories from several disciplines from the humanities and social sciences (linguistics, natural language processing, communication sciences, education, and management studies). The sub-projects involved in the MOOCresearch2.0 are:

1. Social interactions, socio-cognitive conflicts and learning

PI: Prof. Mariane Frenay, GIRSEF; PhD candidate: Dennis A. Rivera

This subproject investigates how MOOC learners engage in socio-cognitive conflicts on MOOC discussion forums. It investigates how the MOOC discipline, the instructional context conditions, and the learners’ individual characteristics affect the way in which learners engage in these conflicts; This subproject seeks to develop in-depth understanding of the dynamic process of social learning in MOOCs and pinpoint the possible factors that may trigger the most fruitful socio-cognitive interactions.


2. Essentially contested concepts in social sciences: The case of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

PI: Prof. Valérie Swaen, LOURIM; PhD candidate: Pauline de Montpellier d'Annevoie

This subproject investigates the preconceptions and understandings that MOOC learners have about Essentially Contested Concepts (ECCs) theough the case of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It studies how these preconceptions vary with learners’ individual profiles (e.g., socio-demographics, values, experience), and geographical origins. It explores how different pedagogical and communication mechanisms can stimulate content-related debate and facilitate learning about scientific ECCs.


3. The communicative constitution of controversial debates

PI: Prof. François Lambotte, Social Media Lab; PostDoc researcher: Dr. Jan Zienkowski

This subproject delves into the rhetoric of controversies to explore how controversial debates unfold. It considers the relational, sequential and longitudinal construction of stances to analyze typical utterances of controversial debates (e.g., proof, refutation, politeness) and examine how these utterances are triggered, stabilize, transform and close.


4. Socio-cognitive conflicts and negotiating meaning in a foreign language

PI: Prof. Magali Paquot, Centre for English Corpus Linguistics; PhD candidate: Bert Van de Poel

This subproject investigates the participation of non-native speakers in MOOC forum discussions. It examines the role that these learners take when they participate in a MOOC forum discussion. It examines how non-native speakers negotiate meaning with a view to resolve a misunderstanding due to language problems vs. content-related and cognitive problems. Its goal is to portray the extent to which the learners' level of language proficiency impact their presence in online educational platforms.


Contact Person:

Dr. Magali Paquot, project spokesperson.


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