F3-O/LT2-4 - Deadlines and MOOCs: How Do Students Behave in MOOCs with and without Deadlines

3. Research Full Paper
Petri Ihantola1 , Ilenia Fronza2, Tommi Mikkonen1, Miska Noponen1, Arto Hellas1
1 University of Helsinki
2 Free University of Bolzano

Full paper: While MOOCs were supposed to revolutionize higher education, creating an opportunity where anyone anywhere could attend high-quality courses, it soon became evident that this would not happen. High enrollment rates were followed by poor completion rates, which were suggested to be even under 5%. Moreover, those who complete MOOCs often have prior experience in MOOCs and are typically older and more educated, with an intent to complete the course. Participation in MOOCs has been discussed using term "funnel of participation'', which includes four steps: Awareness of a MOOC exiting, Registration to the MOOC, Activity on the course, and meaningful learning Progress. Based on previous research, only a small fraction of students continue to the next step. Using such terminology does not, however, account for when a student drops out, assuming that the student is active in the course.

In this research paper, we discuss experiences from running a massive open online course in programming. We confirm the findings of many who note that MOOCs seem to have high drop-out rates (ca. 90% in our case). Our experiences regarding the phenomenon of participants dropping out from the course are more specific, however. Points in time, when students drop out each week, are not evenly distributed. Interestingly, there are many students who receive almost full points from a week but do not continue to the next week. This suggests that the issue of drop-outs in MOOCs may be related to participants struggling to take up new tasks or schedule their work over a longer time period. Moreover, we confirm previous observations that drop-out rates at the beginning of the course are greater than towards the end of the course. We hypothesize that after students have invested enough time and effort, they will work harder to complete the course. Our results support the design of online education, especially scheduling student activities in open online courses.