MOOC: Emerging patterns of learners on MOOCs

There are many out there  quick to jump to test waters in MOOCs. But, how well do they fare? What do we know about them? How do we classify learners on MOOC? Is it by their learning styles or learning needs? In this post, I shall attempt to address these questions. Apparently, it looks like that many MOOC providers measure their success rate based, not just on the completion rates of registered participants but more so by number of people viewing content or engaging with content. The recent working papers of MIT  and Harvard,  besides many others, highlight this point.

So, based on the level of engagement level people have with MOOC’s content, they may be classified as lurkers, passive participants, active participants, and drop-ins. In addition to this, Phil Hill provides other terms like completing, auditing, sampling and disengaging. Lurkers are those who sample a few items or observe a few online classes. By and large, this group forms the majority of students in MOOCs.  There is the quiet traditional students who take trouble to watch lecture videos and complete assignments, but shy away from participating in online discussion forums and group activities. They form the passive group. Then, there is the other group of people who would have special interests in certain topics within a given course. They drop in to participate in modules that interest them. They seem to actively participate, but they show no interest in completing the entire course. Finally, we have the active participants, the minority group, but actively get involved in all the activities and make maximum contribution in online discussion forums and group activities.

MOOC-StudentPatternsHowever, people tend to move from one pattern to another. Some people move from being active participant to passive to observer, and a few, vice versa. As reported in the MIT and Harvard working paper, vast majority of passive learners tend to disappear after the first few weeks of browsing through the course content and sampling a few quizzes and discussion forums. Those who are able to meet the demands of MOOCs and withstand all pressures in day-to-day life, tend to engage with MOOCs actively and complete them successfully.

Participating in MOOCs requires high information literacy skills, high motivation, writing skills  and committed to self-learning. They should also be able to seek help from peers and seek resources that will assist them to cope with course demands.

I must hasten to mention that it is not only those who complete successfully benefit from MOOCs, but also those who meet their personal preferences and needs by sampling or participating in select modules that interest them. It is very difficult to say exactly how many people genuinely benefit from MOOCs. Having said that, I must state that those who stay on track to complete MOOCs, do demonstrate their strong self-discipline in self-paced learning, besides gaining knowledge.

Image source: Phil Hill in e-Literate


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