Goal-setting behaviour in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Milligan, C.; Margaryan, A. and Littlejohn, A. (2013). Goal-setting behaviour in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). In: 15th Biennial EARLI Conference, 27-31 Aug 2013, Munich, Germany.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) represent a new and increasingly popular model of online learning course where the learner’s ability sets their learning goals and the emphasis is on creating new knowledge rather than on ’working through structured course materials’. This study set out to investigate the skills and attributes learners need to possess to participate effectively in a MOOC, and in particular: ‘How do participants plan and reflect upon their learning goals within the Change 11 MOOC?’ Participants for this primarily qualitative study were recruited from the Change 11 course cohort. Participants were first invited to complete a self-report instrument to establish a measure of their self-regulation. Semi-structured in-depth interviews (n=27) exploring goal-setting and other learning behaviours were then conducted. Anonymised interviews were analysed and a combination of pre-defined and emergent codes used to categorise the data. Interview data was then analysed against the SR scores derived from the survey instrument. Findings from the study highlight that learners with different self-regulated learning profiles differ in their approach to goal setting and learning in a MOOC, but that other factors are also important with the topic and precise format of the course in particular mediating individual approaches to goal-setting. These findings can help practitioners design more supportive learning environments and learning designs which take account of different learner approaches to goal-setting in MOOCs which, while presently under-researched, are rapidly gaining prominence as a mechanism for delivering learning online.

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