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Between tradition and innovation: the discursive construction of a “world-leading” university


This paper applies critical discourse analysis to two discursive samples (“texts”) produced by Harvard University: a sample from the official course catalogue and the list of courses provided as “HarvardX” on the MOOC platform EdX. The analysis shows how Harvard legitimates its role across “innovative” and traditional forms of provision, employing an apparently neutral language to shape identities and practices. The analytic section considers the generic structure of both texts and how semiotic relationships are realised through stylistic choices and grammatical structures. The analysis suggests that the differences between traditional and open access provision at Harvard are simultaneously educational and socio-political. The analysis also opens a window onto the instructional practices at Harvard - something that seems to be missing in the educational research literature.


Critical discourse analysis; MOOCs; Identities; Innovative education; eHEALTH EDUCATION; Educational Technology; Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)

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Italian Journal of Educational Technology (IJET) | ISSN (print) 2532-4632 | ISSN (online) 2532-7720