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Participating by activity or by week in MOOCs

Alok Baikadi (Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Carrie Demmans Epp (Department of Computer Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Christian D. Schunn (Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 4 September 2018

Issue publication date: 13 November 2018




The purpose of this study was to provide a new characterization of the extent to which learners complete learning activities in massive open online courses (MOOCs), a central challenge in these contexts. Prior explorations of learner interactions with MOOC materials have often described these interactions through stereotypes, which accounts for neither the full spectrum of potential learner activities nor the ways those patterns differ across course designs.


To overcome these shortcomings, the authors apply confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis to learner activities within three MOOCs to test different models of participation across courses and populations found within those courses.


Courses varied in the extent to which participation was driven by learning activities vs time/topic or a mixture of both, but this was stable across offerings of the same course.

Research limitations/implications

The results call for a reconceptualization of how different learning activities within a MOOC are designed to work together, to better allow strong learning outcomes even within one activity form or more strongly encourage participation across activities.


The authors validate new continuous-patterns rather than a discrete-pattern participation model for MOOC learning.



Baikadi, A., Demmans Epp, C. and Schunn, C.D. (2018), "Participating by activity or by week in MOOCs", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 119 No. 9/10, pp. 572-585.



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