Consistent Commitment: Patterns of Engagement across Time in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Rebecca Ferguson
Doug Clow

Abstract


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are being used across the world to provide millions of learners with access to education. Many who begin these courses complete them successfully, or to their own satisfaction, but the high numbers who do not finish remain a subject of concern. In 2013, a team from Stanford University analysed engagement patterns on three MOOCs run on the Coursera platform. They found four distinct patterns of engagement that emerged from MOOCs based on videos and assessments. Subsequent studies on the FutureLearn platform, which is underpinned by social-constructivist pedagogy, indicate that patterns of engagement in these massive learning environments are influenced by decisions about pedagogy and learning design. This paper reports on two of these studies of learner engagement with FutureLearn courses. Study One first tries, not wholly successfully, to replicate the findings of the Coursera study in a new context. It then uses the same methodological approach to identify patterns of learner engagement on the FutureLearn platform, and indicates how these patterns are influenced by pedagogy and elements of learning design. Study Two investigates whether these patterns of engagement are stable on subsequent presentations of the same courses. Two patterns are found consistently in this and other work: samplers who visit briefly, and completers who fully engage with the course. The paper concludes by exploring the implications for both research and practice.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18608/jla.2015.23.5

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