Julie Ann Campbell

Massively Open Online Courses

For my master’s capstone, I investigated how to improve engagement with Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I decided to focus my capstone project on online learning because I am a passionate autodidact. In this multi-faceted project, I conducted secondary and primary research and then iteratively prototyped an improvement to the MOOC model designed to support learner engagement with MOOC students.
During the MOOC boom (2012-2014), MOOCs were touted as having immense potential to disrupt the higher education model. Despite this supposed potential to bring free, high-quality education to the masses, MOOCs face substantial problems. One problem is that the engagement of learners participating in MOOCs is very low, with attrition rates of more than 90% common in many courses.
My Work
  • Conducted an in-depth literature review of more than 80 articles on known issues and potential improvements for MOOCs.
  • Interviewed MOOC students and instructors about their experiences and problems.
  • Sketched, wireframed, and prototyped, a novel improvement for MOOCs.
Read the complete report of our findings and justification.

The resulting MOOC prototype includes a number of features intended to support learner engagement. First, learners have the option of selecting from three different tracks based on their desired level of engagement. We learned about the potential for multi-track and adaptive MOOCs to support different learner needs from our literature review. This concept was supported by evidence from our interviews, during which participants expressed a feeling of being overwhelmed by MOOCs that pushed for a higher level of engagement than they desired.

Second, learners have the ability to join a MOOC group. A MOOC group allows learners to work together to complete assignments and weekly discussions. Members of MOOC groups can compare their group's progress with other groups via a leaderboard as an additional motivator to stay engaged. We developed the idea for MOOC groups based on our interviews. We discovered that students who participated in MOOCs with a group of their peers were much more likely to complete the course versus students studying independently.

Third, learners can take advantage of more interactive course features, such as video lecture annotation, adaptive quizzes, and superior forum filtering. We found during our interviews that learners expected more interactive MOOC content, a suggestion that we had also encountered in our literature review. A key criticism of MOOCs is that they use outdated pedagogy focused on information transfer, borrowed directly from the lecture hall, rather than taking advantage of the dynamic potential of online learning.
MOOC Interface Sketches

Interface Sketches