Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have taken the higher education by storm with an increasing number of educational institutes offering online courses and students taking online courses each year (Breslow, Pritchard, DeBoer, Stump, Ho, & Seaton, 2013). However, the potential of enabling massive number of students to learn has not been achieved. An average MOOC sees only about 6.5% of the students completing enough of the course to earn a certificate (Jordan, 2014). In view of the need to understand why so few succeed in MOOCs, De Barba, Kennedy, and Ainley (2016) conducted a study to examine the relations between motivation, participation, and performance in MOOCs.
Motivation was measured by students’ self-report on eight items indicating individual interest, mastery approach goals, value beliefs, situational interest, and maintaining situational interest. Students’ participation was measured by the number of video hits and quiz attempts. Performance was measured by students’ final grade that was calculated by the mean score of the graded quizzes and peer-assessed essay. Based on the data gathered from students who persisted till the end of the course and answered the surveys, motivation and participation were found to have both direct and indirect influences on MOOC performance. On one hand, participation was found to mediate the influence of general motivation (i.e., individual interest, mastery approach goals, and value beliefs). On the other hand, state-level motivation (i.e., situational interest, and maintaining situational) was found to mediate the influence of participation.
Results from De Barba et al.’s (2016) study also showed that the strongest motivational factor to predict performance was situational interest, suggesting that state-level motivation plays an important role in participation and performance in MOOCs. In view of the importance of state-level motivation, the authors recommended MOOCs to be designed to maintain students’ situational interest over the duration of the course through organization of learning activities, structure and placement of tests, and presentation and use of resources.
Breslow, L., Pritchard, D. E., DeBoer, J., Stump, G. S., Ho, A. D., & Seaton, D. T. (2013). Studying learning in the worldwide classroom: Research into edX's first MOOC. Research & Practice in Assessment, 8, 13-25
De Barba, P. G., Kennedy, G. E., & Ainley, M. D. (2016). The Role of Students' Motivation and Participation in Predicting Performance in a MOOC. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32(3), 218-231.
Jordan, K. (2014). Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(1), 133-160.