The Challenges of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Pike, Graham and Gore, Hannah (2018). The Challenges of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). In: Baxter, Jacqueline; Callaghan, George and McAvoy, Jean eds. Creativity and Critique in Online Learning: Exploring and Examining Innovations in Online Pedagogy. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 149–168.



Since their inception in 2012, the most significant challenge faced in the production and presentation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has been how to engage and retain learners. Although often heralded as the next step in the evolution of online education, even if MOOCs represent a revolution in terms of the number of learners signing-up, they leave a lot to be desired with respect to the number of people who actually complete a course. This chapter explores some of the issues involved in retaining learners and focuses on the design and development of one MOOC (Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation by The Open University on the FutureLearn platform), which experimented with new ways to keep learners engaged. The course utilised a narrative approach, with a storyline running throughout, and was released in a serialised fashion. Analysis revealed a relatively high rate of retention and the use of narrative devices at the end of each week appeared to entice learners to return the following week to find out what happened next. As a result, learners were more likely to drop out mid-week than between weeks. The implications this might have for learning design and the development of MOOCs are discussed.

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