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Learner Motivation for MOOC Registration and the Role of MOOCs as a University "Taster"

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International Journal of Lifelong Education Volume 35, Number 1, ISSN 0260-1370


Despite the widespread adoption of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), no business model has emerged to make them sustainable from an institution standpoint. Using MOOCs as a marketing platform shows promise; but for this to succeed, it is necessary to understand the motivations of those who undertake them and to demonstrate how these same motivations can be better satisfied through enrolment in a fee-paying university course. We discuss the motivations for students as they progress through a MOOC and the factors that might lead to subsequent university enrolment. Our arguments are informed by MOOC statistics, the AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) marketing model, and the literature on adult education, technology adoption, goal seeking and consumer value. We argue that most students are led to MOOC enrolment through close alignment of the course topic and subject matter with their personal goals and through the establishment of an attractive value proposition. Progress in the MOOC depends on whether this goal alignment is maintained, and whether the value assumptions of students are met or exceeded. We predict that subsequent university enrolment will most likely occur when the MOOC experience is both satisfying and representative of the university experience, and where the increased time and financial commitment demanded by formal study is offset by the greater likelihood of attaining the focal goal. For this strategy to succeed, it will be necessary for the host institution to actively work with MOOC students to create an awareness of appropriate fee-paying courses and to promote the benefits of university study. This has implications for the way institutions market their courses to MOOC students.


Howarth, J.P., D'Alessandro, S., Johnson, L. & White, L. (2016). Learner Motivation for MOOC Registration and the Role of MOOCs as a University "Taster". International Journal of Lifelong Education, 35(1), 74-85. Retrieved September 30, 2020 from .

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