Factors affecting choice of access to content in a Learn Moodle MOOC and their effect on MOOC completion rates

A project for the Edinburgh Napier MBOE on:

Factors affecting choice of access to content in a “Learn Moodle” MOOC and their effect on MOOC completion rates

Literature review


Watson, Yu and Watson (2018) explored and compared participants’ learning gains (‘attitudinal learning’) in a self-paced version of a  MOOC (which could be taken at any time and had minimal facilitator support)  versus a fixed schedule version (a ‘live’ MOOC running on specific dates with greater interaction). Their results were that those in the self-paced version “were more likely to perceive higher levels of attitudinal learning gains and satisfaction than those in a fixed-scheduled MOOC”.  Additionally they remarked that “…those learners enrolled in the self-paced offering of the course reported much more diverse reasons for enrolling in the course.”

 While this study does not directly relate to the Learn Moodle MOOC, which only offers a fixed schedule of twice a year, the results are interesting in that they suggest a self-paced approach suits learner of a greater diversity who ultimately gain more satisfaction. Might these be the same learners who opt for the ‘All at once’ approach in the Learn Moodle MOOC?

There is a caveat when interpreting the results of the study, however: the authors point out that the two MOOCs did not have entirely the same instructional design, and that no demographic study was done of the participants, which might have revealed other possible learner differences.

In their 2013 study, "Staggered versus All at once", Mullaney and Reich of Harvard university reported on the results of their experiment testing a MOOC in two 'runs', one where all content was released immediately and the other where content was released a week at a time over the four month period. Their study focused on comparing 'on trackedness' (ie how learners engaged with the recommended pathway), rather than the reasons learners preferred one option over another. Additionally, their MOOC lasted four months rather than the four weeks of the Learn Moodle MOOC. However, their findings might prove interesting to compare and contrast with the results of this project.

Mullaney and Reich "discovered few differences in persistence, participation, and completion between the two runs." They also discovered that providing the content 'all at once' led (to a small degree) to students being slightly less on track then when the content was released in stages, and tutors had more control over the cohort. However they also accepted that learners appreciate having the flexibility to work at their own pace, and return to materials of earlier weeks even though they might not be following the syllabus in the strictest manner. They concluded that:

  1. Releasing content all at once gives learners valued flexibility
  2. 'Staggering content'  keeps learners more tightly controlled (and therefore might be preferred by some tutors)

The authors offer these conclusions as advice to future MOOC designers; however they do not suggest offering both tracks, only the benefits of one or the other. The Learn MOOC MOOC differs  in this respect , in that participants can choose how to access the course content. It remains to be seen from the data analysis whether this choice affects completion in a more significant way than observed by Mullaney and Reich.