University of Bath (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 498-508
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.1110
Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) has increased dramatically in recent years, including those from the UK provider, FutureLearn. Comparison of data between MOOCs shows that participation varies significantly across different demographics and courses. Coursera MOOC participants tend to be 60% male whereas FutureLearn courses tend to be more female dominated. More detailed analysis of the gender, countries, ages and education status of participants across MOOCs of different subject matter would enable a better understanding of the reasons for variation. This paper explores the factors that influence learners to engage with FutureLearn MOOCs. For this study, a diverse range of MOOCs delivered by the University of Bath since 2014 were selected. The content of the MOOCs ranged from ‘Inside Cancer’, ‘Quality Improvement in Healthcare’, ‘Remote Control Warfare’ and ‘Sustainability for Professionals’. Enrolment learner profiles and activity data at each step of the MOOCs was analysed. The demographic of Bath FutureLearn participants differed for those from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries and non-OECD countries in several aspects.

More females than males take FutureLearn MOOCs: Over 60% of females registered for FutureLearn courses on average, and this trend was also reflected in the University of Bath MOOCs, which were 63% female. More female registrants were seen in all of the top 10 participating countries, except for India and Nigeria, possibly reflecting the socio-cultural contexts of access to education for women in these 2 countries. All MOOCs in OECDs had a higher proportion of female learners, except for ‘Remote Control Warfare’, confirming assumptions that the subject matter may influence MOOC participation when it comes to gender, much like it does in traditional forms of pedagogy.

Participants from non-OECDs are younger: Non-OECD countries had an average participant age of 32 years old compared to 41 in OECDs. Average age also varied between courses being youngest in Sustainability and oldest in Quality Control in Healthcare.

Course popularity may reflect the socio-political environment of the participant countries: Country participation varied depending on course content. All 4 MOOCs, except for ‘Sustainability’ had more OECD than non-OECD participants. The ‘Remote Control Warfare’ MOOC drew a high proportion of participants from Ukraine, compared to the ‘Sustainability’ MOOC, which drew higher numbers from countries with ‘green’ policies such as Brazil and the Netherlands.

More participants from non-OECDs are already enrolled in tertiary education: More than 10% of non-OECD participants were already in full time tertiary education compared to 6% of OECD participants, potentially reflecting the different motivations for learning in non-OECD countries such as career progression or social mobility.

Course adherence is lower in non-OECDs: Over 7% of non-OECD participants were still active at the end of the MOOCs compared to 15% of OECD participants. Non-OECD participants face more barriers such as limited and expensive internet access, which is a likely reason for this lower adherence.

The findings from this study contribute to the wider understanding of the profiles of global learner participation and engagement in FutureLearn MOOCs, and also provide fresh perspectives on the factors that influence learner engagement with these courses.
MOOCs, FutureLearn, Education, OECD.