MOOCs for Development? A Study of Indian Learners and their Experiences in Massive Open Online Courses

Sanzgiri, Janesh (2020). MOOCs for Development? A Study of Indian Learners and their Experiences in Massive Open Online Courses. PhD thesis The Open University.



The study outlined in this thesis provides an account of the demographics, motivations and experiences of Indian learners in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) comparing the UK-based platform FutureLearn and the Indian platform NPTEL (The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning).

A sequential mixed-methods approach was adopted. A web-based survey (n=2373) was used to collect demographical data and evidence of respondents’ perceptions about their motivations for taking a MOOC, their learning experiences, and any challenges they may have faced while taking a MOOC. The survey phase was followed by 30 semi-structured interviews with learners from both platforms, adding a rich level of qualitative data to the study, revealing the varied experiences and backgrounds of MOOC learners from India.

Analysis of the collected data suggests that learners from India tend to be male, younger, more likely to be in formal education, and more educated than participants featured in many existing studies on MOOC learner demographics. Further, the current study outlined several demographic and motivational differences between learners on FutureLearn and NPTEL, likely to be attributable to the distinct objectives of the two platforms.

A more in-depth exploration of learners’ experiences suggested that a diverse group of people, particularly on the FutureLearn platform, are using MOOCs to learn more about areas of personal interest, and, in some cases, using FutureLearn resources to assist in their teaching practice. Conversely, learners on the NPTEL platform, who tended to experience more technical challenges such as connectivity issues, were using MOOCs as a supplement to their formal studies, to make up for some of the systemic lack of quality education in many Indian universities.

This thesis suggests that educational technology, in the form of MOOCs, might not necessarily be widening participation in education in a Global South context like India. However, it offers a unique insight into the experiences of learners from India, and provides practical recommendations on how best to serve the needs of the varied Indian learners that make use of MOOCs.

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