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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Exploratory Analysis of Motivation and Engagement in Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)

  • Author(s): Morris, Ian
  • Advisor(s): Wills, John S
  • et al.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a hotbed of debate in today's discussions of online education. Having rapidly expanded and developed since their 2008 introduction, these courses have been called a "transformative revolution" in education with both advocates and detractors alike speaking of their potential far reaching impacts. Despite their recognition however, research into the nascent field remains relatively limited with even fewer efforts having been made to examine the motivational components that impact students' behaviors within this unique educational context. Seeking to explore this gap in research, this study examines student motivation and engagement behaviors in MOOCs through a combination of a literature review and a series of semi-structured interviews with past and present MOOC participants. This study takes a two tier approach to data analysis. The first tier looks at the general experiences and perceptions of MOOC participants. This examines similarities and differences between this study's participants' experiences and those of other research findings in the field. The primary findings from this level of analysis suggest the importance of program utility value, the potential benefit of the creation of an additional subcategory of MOOC (pMOOC) and the need for continued research into the supplemental uses of MOOC. The second tier of analysis explores the ways in which this study's findings relate to the predominate theories in the field of Motivational Studies. Using Self-Determination Theory (SDT), Socio-Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Expectancy Value Theory (EVT) as theoretical frameworks, this study explores how participant experiences map onto motivational models. Findings at this level of analysis indicate that, while participants frequently addressed many factors tied to all three motivational theories, EVT demonstrated the most salient pattern in relation achievement and engagement behaviors within this study. In closing, this paper examines its own shortcomings and provides suggestions for future research.

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