Social interactions, socio-cognitive conflicts and learning

Socio-cognitive conflicts are discrepancies of knowledge that allow learners to engage in their learning. Such engagement is important due to the positive effects it can have on the acquisition of knowledge. As a primary means of social and intellectual interactions, discussion forums in massive open online courses (MOOCs) could provide a favourable scenario for learners to engage in socio-cognitive conflicts. Yet, research on socio-cognitive conflicts in MOOCs is scarce.

This research investigates the multidimensional nature of learner engagement in asynchronous socio-cognitive conflicts on MOOCs. It studies how the learner, course, and instructional design characteristics of MOOCs affect the learner engagement in the epistemic resolution of cognitive discrepancies. The goal of this study is 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.

Learner Engagement

is the active involvement of the learners in their learning. This involvement consists of social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural dimensions that describe the behaviours, interactions, mood, and intellectual investment that learners put to acquire knowledge (Deng, Benckendorff, & Gannaway, 2019).

Socio-cognitive Conflicts

are discrepancies of knowledge that trigger in the learners a social and a cognitive imbalance. This imbalance requires learners to question their knowledge and analyse differing points of view that helps them reconstruct their knowledge (Goggins, Galyen, Petakovic, & Laffey, 2016; Tawfik et al., 2017).


Research Objectives :

  1. Identify the quantity and quality of learner engagement in MOOC forums and the extend to which this engagement reflects different levels of thinking skills.
  2. Pinpoint the individual and course factors that affect engagement in asynchronous socio-cognitive conflicts on MOOC discussion forums.
  3. Examine the effects of different forum instructional designs on the engagement of MOOC learners and on the epistemic resolution of socio-cognitive conflicts.
  4. Investigate how delayed responses, atemporal posting, and the type and quality of instructor feedback affect engagement in socio-cognitive conflicts.

Contact person:

PhD Candidate: Dennis A. Rivera


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