Demystifying Learner Success: Before, During, and After a Massive Open Online Course

Yuan Wang

Demystifying Learner Success: Before, During, and After a Massive Open Online Course
Wang, Yuan
Thesis Advisor(s):
Baker, Ryan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Cognitive Studies in Education
Persistent URL:
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have gained great popularity during a relatively short time frame. Yet, measuring MOOC learner success has been fairly challenging. The development of technology and scale of online education considerably outpace efforts to evaluate and understand how well it is succeeding at improving outcomes. As a response and after reviewing current literature and relevant theories, in this dissertation, three research directions have been identified, as critical steps toward better understanding MOOC success: 1.How does a learner’s motivation influence their outcomes? 2. How does a learner’s motivation influence their performance and engagement within a MOOC? 3. How does a learner’s performance and engagement within the course influence their outcomes? Given these three research questions, three studies have been conducted to analyze both MOOC learner motivation and learning activities via taking into account learner data before, during, and after taking a MOOC. This research considers success at two stages: during the course itself (course completion), and the student’s post-course career development. The results of Study 1 showed that course completers tend to be more interested in the course content, whereas non-completers tend to be more interested in MOOCs as a type of learning experience. Learners who complete the course tend to have more self-efficacy for their ability to complete the course, from the beginning. Grit and goal orientation are associated with course completion, with grit predicting course completion independently from intention to complete, and with comparable strength. Study 2 investigated 5 behavioral thresholds in addition to just looking at course completion alone and looked into how each of the 5 types may link to the different motivational aspects included in the pre-course survey. The results indicated that emerging patterns unique to the MOOC environment could be related to various learning needs that require engagement with the course materials on varied levels. For example, skipping introductory videos might relate to learners intention of focusing on a sub-set of the course materials. Results of Study 3 showed that career advancers earn better scores and are more likely to complete the course. Career advancers also engaged more frequently with all key course components such as course pages, lecture videos, assignment submissions, and discussion forums. However, when further examining interaction behaviors within discussion forums, advancers tend to be forum lurkers who frequently read the forums but were less likely to post, comment, or vote. The results of these studies can increase our understanding of MOOC learner success and help inform a framework that evaluates a MOOC learner’s success in a comprehensive way.
Cognitive psychology
MOOCs (Web-based instruction)
Learning, Psychology of
Item views
text | xml
Suggested Citation:
Yuan Wang, , Demystifying Learner Success: Before, During, and After a Massive Open Online Course, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

Columbia University Libraries | Policies | FAQ