International Participants’ xMOOC Perspectives

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International Participants’ xMOOC Perspectives

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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are an example of what is now possible through education technologies. Due to their unique reach and viral growth, many universities have developed MOOCs since 2011. Sometimes over 100,000 participants enroll in a single MOOC. MOOCs promise to increase the reach of higher education internationally especially to those who currently lack access. The mission of Coursera, one of the leading MOOC providers, is to “provide universal access to the world’s best education”. Multiple studies have noted that the overwhelming majority of MOOC participants are international, yet their experiences have not been thoroughly analyzed by geographical region. This dissertation analyzes data from five Coursera MOOCs. MOOCs developed by Coursera are considered “eXtended” MOOCs or “xMOOCs” which are different in format to “Connectivist” MOOCs or “cMOOCs”. This dissertation study analyzes international participant experiences in five MOOCs to improve our understanding of who these participants are, why they are participating, what are the positive and negative aspects of their experience, and what suggestions they have for improving these MOOCs. This study analyzes data collected during an evaluation of five Coursera MOOCs from 2012-2013. A pre-course survey (N = 21,178), a post-course survey (N = 2,793), a survey for international participants (N = 1,757), and focus groups with international participants (N = 81) were conducted. This study also takes into consideration the author’s own experiences as an xMOOC participant. Surveys were studied through a series of chi-square tests. Focus groups were analyzed using theme analysis. While the majority of participants in xMOOC are international, they participate in xMOOCs for a diverse series of reasons some of which are more prevalent depending on their geographical region. Participants’ outlook on the future of MOOCs is also varied yet overall most participants considered xMOOCs to be a very positive opportunity for learners that was not available to them before. This study found significant differences in international participants’ experiences according to their geographical region, as well as similarities between all international participants. The study also identified two primary groups of international participants, those from lower HDI regions, and those from higher HDI regions. Some of the concerns shared by international participants have been addressed by MOOC developers but additional changes could be made to better address the needs of international participants.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2018. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisors: Gerald Fry, Bodong Chen. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 670 pages.

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Sintjago, Alfonso. (2018). International Participants’ xMOOC Perspectives. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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