There exists a tension in the design of MOOCs (massive open online courses) that must fulfil the expectations of a facilitated online course, whilst simultaneously delivering the immediate learning benefits of self-paced online resources. Online courses with fixed dates allow for focused educational support, providing direct access to the expertise of course authors and mentoring teams within a defined time period. Many MOOCs grounded in social-constructivist pedagogies are designed to be delivered as facilitated courses, but also designed to exist afterwards drawing upon only peer-support or as self-paced, open educational resources.
The flexibility of enrolment period and course design allows for learners to address their own intended learning goals (De Boer, et al., 2014). However, a question remains as to how learners are best equipped to bridge these two forms of course operation, which is dependent upon, and often unknowingly imposed, at the point in time they enrol. Directly addressing the theme of the skills learners need and develop in experiencing open learning, an exploration of learner engagement based upon when a learner joins a MOOC may inform more tailored support messages and guidance as to how to engage with the course content, educators and other participants. This study compares the learner behaviour between learners who enrolled prior to the course start date, with those who enrolled during the supported period or after the course.
This paper presents an initial analysis of the learner behaviour from four MOOCs, designed to support school teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD). Learner engagement is described quantitatively, represented by progression through the course, the number of comments per learner and the number of comments which are direct replies to other learners. Preliminary results from two MOOC instances show that of those learners who are active in the course, those who enrol prior to a course start date are likely to access more course content, contribute more and reply to other learners more compared to learners who join during or after the supported course period. However, it remains that a higher percentage of learners who enrol after the course start date will engage in the course in one form or another, just not at the same level as those who enrol prior to start date. This echoes previous suggestions by Ferguson and Clow (2015) that learners who start the course concurrently, and abide by a weekly structure, may “discourage participation by late arrivals.”
It is anticipated that delegates will engage with the questions posed by this analysis and begin to consider appropriate methods for recruitment and tailoring of learner support based on course enrolment date.
De Boer, J., Ho, A.D., Stump, G.S., Breslow, L. (2014) ‘Reconceptualizing Educational Variables for Massive Open Online Courses’, Educational Researcher, 43(2), 74-84. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X14523038
Ferguson, R. and Clow, D. (2015). ‘Consistent commitment: Patterns of engagement across time in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)’, Journal of Learning Analytics, 2(3), 55-80. http://dx.doi.org/10.18608/jla.2015.23.5