A mixed-methods study with MOOC learners to understand their motivations and accessibility needs

Iniesto, Francisco; McAndrew, Patrick; Minocha, Shailey and Coughlan, Tim (2023). A mixed-methods study with MOOC learners to understand their motivations and accessibility needs. In: Olivier, Jako and Rambow, Andreas eds. Open Educational Resources in Higher Education A Global Perspective. Future Education and Learning Spaces. Springer, pp. 175–201.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-8590-4_9


An accessible Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) environment should consider each learner’s abilities, goals, context, and which specific assistive technologies can be used to facilitate the learning experience. Learners with accessibility needs can face difficulties in interacting with MOOCs., Different MOOC platforms and course designs may influence their self-regulated learning skills, learning engagement, and communications with other learners. Unfortunately, MOOC platforms and the pedagogies used in the courses are not fully accessible. Literature has shown that there is a lack of understanding of what learners with accessibility needs can expect from participating in MOOCs. While there are extensive studies of MOOC demographic data, these studies rarely consider the diverse needs of learners. This chapter reports a research study which employed pre- and post-course survey data from 14 Open University MOOCs in the UK’s MOOC platform, FutureLearn, (with 29,000 and 5,000 respondents). The analysis of survey data provided preliminary insights and was a source of secondary data as a precursor to interviews with 15 learners who had declared a disability, participated in MOOCs and filled in the course surveys. The data from the semi-structured interviews with MOOC learners helped understand their motivations, the accessibility barriers they experienced, whether/how they worked around those barriers and their suggestions for accessibility solutions. A descriptive approach was applied to analyse the survey data, while a thematic analysis of the interview data was conducted. This research has yielded an understanding of the motivations of learners with accessibility needs when taking part in MOOCs and how MOOCs should be designed to be more accessible.

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