Exploring the Factors Associated with MOOC Engagement, Retention and the Wider Benefits for Learners

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have and continue to change the way in which nontraditional learners’ access education. Although the free element of these has been linked to low completion rates due to no invested interest, the MOOC platform enables innovative technologies and practices to be trialled. Therefore, rather than attributing varied intentions of learners for high drop-out rates, it is suggested that an increase in completion can be achieved through more focussed pedagogical practices. In this way, it is necessary to understand the wider benefits of MOOC engagement for learners and what factors are key to their engagement and retention. The current research qualitatively analysed open feedback obtained from learners that corresponded to their goals of course participation. The feedback was also matched to categorical data that related to initial course intentions, the value of course materials and activities, the preferred extent of instructor interaction, unit completion and their overall rating of the MOOC. Thematic analysis revealed eight key themes that can be linked to engagement and wider benefits of course participation and widely related to professional and educational development, for example, supplementary learning for undergraduate students. Moreover, the MOOC appeared to have encouraged learners to revaluate their perspectives of and attitudes towards Dementia and those diagnosed with it, demonstrating another key element of this course. The open feedback revealed that quality assured MOOCs have significant impact on the lives of enrolled learners and pedagogical design and advances in these courses are considered, particularly in relation to collaborative learning. Finally, the application of MOOCs to wider learning and teaching at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is discussed, with emphasis placed on the advantages of readily available resources and scope for scholarly activity.

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