What are massive open online courses?
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are programs with open access that support student participation via the internet (techopedia, n.d.). MOOCs have become increasingly popular in the last five years, offering MOOC students 24/7 access to course materials such as lectures, videos, readings, and other helpful guides—as well as providing a space for interactive forums for peer-to-peer collaborative learning (Williams et al., 2018).
How many students can be in a MOOC?
There is no limit to how many students can be in a MOOC! By running a MOOC program, your student population can be in the thousands—allowing you to share your expertise with local, national, and international audiences.
How might students benefit from MOOC?
- MOOCs are often free, enabling MOOC students around the world to access high quality online classes created by top professionals (techopedia, n.d.).
- MOOCs can be accessed anywhere, anytime via on-the-go devices such as smartphone, tablet, or laptops (Sokolova, 2014). This makes it easier than ever for MOOC students with full-time jobs to take courses online at their own pace in a convenient setting with WIFI connection.
- It is easy to take MOOCs in your native language, as subtitles are offered in multiple languages such as Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, French, and so much more (Sokolova, 2014).
What percentage of students complete MOOC courses?
One big drawback of MOOCs is that completion rates remain fairly low. Less than 8% of those that start a MOOC finish their program (Williams et al., 2018). So, what factors about students result in this low completion rate—and how can MOOC creators adjust their strategy to better engage MOOC students? Researchers Williams, Stafford, Corliss, and Reilly (2018) examined 15,655 students’ characteristics, goals, and engagement in eight different MOOCs. Their investigation uncovered key aspects to MOOC students.
3 Fun Facts about MOOC Students
- Primary goals of MOOC students significantly vary depending on the field of study.
- Students that took MOOCs in the humanities/liberal arts were more likely than students of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) MOOCs to take online programs to pursue goals of personal interest and lifelong learning, and out of sheer curiosity to see what a MOOC learning environment might be like (Williams et al., 2018).
- Students that took MOOCs in STEM courses were more likely than students that took MOOCs in the humanities/liberal arts to take online programs to pursue goals of successfully preparing for a credited course or placement exam and to pursue goals of successfully expanding their knowledgebase in a specific career or area of study in a higher education institution (Williams et al., 2018).
- It seems that designing STEM MOOCs to optimally meet goals of preparing MOOC students for a credited course, placement exams, or to enhance learning outcomes in a specific career or area of study in a higher education institution—and marketing that course as such—may drive stronger completion rates! If STEM students can clearly see how completion of STEM MOOCs will help them meet their primary goals as students, it stands to reason that motivation to take the course to completion would increase. Similarly, it seems that designing humanities/liberal arts MOOCs to optimally meet student goals of exploring specific personal interests—and marketing that course as such—may drive stronger completion rates! If students of these MOOCs can clearly see a direct link between completion of humanities/liberal arts MOOCs and thoroughly and successfully exploring specific topics of interest , it stands to reason that motivation to take the humanities/liberal arts course to completion would increase.
- Controlling for all other factors, degree of engagement in MOOCs was significantly higher for MOOC students that were males and were enrolled in STEM courses (Williams et al., 2018).
- This makes sense as the STEM field is dominated by men and those that take STEM MOOCs are likely taking the course for a credited course or placement exams, or to enhance learning outcomes in a STEM career or STEM area of study in a higher education institution (Gallucci, 2016).
- By creating STEM MOOC courses that are equally as engaging for women, it may be possible to improve course engagement and STEM MOOC completion rates by appealing to a wider net of course takers.
- To design MOOC courses that appeal better to both genders, it may be helpful to collect feedback from STEM MOOC students. Interview both genders and better understand which components of the course were engaging and not engaging for each gender. By looking into this, you can design a course that is more inclusive, and therefore, more engaging for a wider audience.
- Engagement in STEM MOOCs and humanities/liberal arts MOOCs increased with age.
- Female students that were older were significantly more engaged in MOOCs than males that were older (Williams et al., 2018).
- To design MOOC courses that appeal better to both adult gender populations, it may be helpful to collect feedback from MOOC students. Interview both genders and better understand which components of the course were engaging and not engaging for each population. By looking into this, you can design a course that is more inclusively engaging.
- To increase MOOC completions, it may be beneficial to promote MOOCs to older adults as user-friendly and an enriching way to spend time in the pursuit of lifelong learning.
Gallucci, M. (2016, October 15). ‘Masculine culture’ in STEM fields is partly to blame for gender gap, study says. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://mashable.com/2016/10/15/stem-gender-gap-masculine-culture/#bkOdrVNY9mqQ
Sokolova, S. (2014, December 28). What are the advantages of MOOCs and how can you benefit from them? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-advantages-moocs-benefits-from-them-siyana-sokolova/
Techopedia. (n.d.). Massive Open Online Course. Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/29260/massive-open-online-course-mooc
Williams, K. M., Stafford, R. E., Corliss, S. B., & Reilly, E. D. (2018). Examining student characteristics, goals, and engagement in massive open online courses. Computers & Education, 126, 433–442. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2018.08.014