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Examining student characteristics, goals, and engagement in Massive Open Online Courses

, , Educational Psychology, United States ; , Dell Medical School, United States ; , Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, United States

Computers & Education Volume 126, Number 1, ISSN 0360-1315 Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have emerged with much popularity in the last five years, yet many questions remain about whom MOOCs best serve and what constitutes learner success. Completion rates, a common metric of student success, remain low, averaging less than 8%, and may be a misleading measure of success unless learner intentions are considered. This research addresses the relationships among learner characteristics and goals for enrolling in MOOCs, and the impacts on student persistence and completion in varying disciplines. We examined learner self-reported goals for taking a MOOC, characteristics, and rate of completion of 15,655 participants in eight MOOC courses. Results revealed that while age was positively associated with MOOC participation, motivation differed across course disciplines. The relationship between learner goals and engagement differed between those enrolled in Humanities/Liberal Arts (HLA) and STEM courses. Most notably, while taking the course due to personal interest or usefulness to a participant's career held a positive relationship with engagement in HLA courses, the endorsement of these same goals was predictive of less engagement in STEM courses. Our findings indicate that learner goals impact engagement and success, and that there are differences in engagement and goals between course disciplines. Suggestions for future MOOC research and potential course improvement to better align with learner goals are also provided.


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(1), 433-442. Elsevier Ltd. Retrieved March 2, 2021 from .

This record was imported from Computers & Education on January 29, 2019. Computers & Education is a publication of Elsevier.

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