1 Tomsk State University (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
2 Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 5282-5291
ISBN: 978-84-09-17939-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2020.1430
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
Massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) learners use various educational strategies depending on study goals and engagement rate. Statistics from online platforms allows determining the engagement rate and the completion level, which is at 3-5% in average. Low level of completeness of MOOCs causes a research interest in searching for possible mechanisms to increase the mentioned indicators.

To identify the most efficient way to support learners, according to the goal of increasing engagement and completion rates, the research team of TSU had been exploring the potential of three learning support models: only platform model, off-platform model, mixed model. The study bases on questionnaires, descriptive statistics, cluster data analysis, visualization and comparative analysis.

The used models were based on the electronic moderation model of J. Salmon, which consists of the following steps: communication before the start of learning, acquaintance, communication during the learning, feedback and coaching. The first two steps are about building trust relationships. The next steps indicate the availability of methodological, substantive and technical support.

The only platform support model is based on a tool kit built into the platform for communication with students. At the step of communication before the start, the learners were given study instructions as PDF files and screencasts. Acquaintance, communication, feedback and coaching were at the forum.

Within the off-platform model a set of communication tools were external and include external forums, messengers, applications, browser extensions, etc. The following services were applied: a virtual assistant «Do-useful», which is an extension to browser, that reminds the learners about their progress at the course and give the advice how to improve their statement (feedback and coaching stage); the messenger Slack, email, Google forms (acquaintance, communication, feedback stage); external webinars (coaching stage).

A mixed model combines platform and off-platform tools to support learners. A virtual assistant «Do-useful» was built into the course and applied throughout the learning process. Acquaintance and communication were carried out on the forum and/or in Slack messenger. Feedback was implemented by using Google forms. Coaching was conducted through webinars and/or through direct personal answers to questions from google-forms or forums.

The results:
1. The experiment showed that using external tools causes an increase in learners’ engagement and completion rate. The number of learners who completed more than 20% of tasks and/or completed the course raised by 2-3%, which is meaningful within the circumstances when the average completion rate is 3-5%.
2. Students cannot abandon the built-in tools of communication. Forums were marked as an unsatisfied tool for communication by about 40% of the respondents, but it still is in high demand in terms of its usability and efficiency as the shortest way to communicate with course team. We consider that this result is due to the high activity of the TSU support team.
3. It is not possible to implement an off-platform support model because platform tools are still in demand.
4. The most efficient model of learners' support is a mixed one.
MOOCs, learners engagement rate, learning support models, online-platform, virtual assistant.