When completing a MOOC (massive open online course), learners' engagement is highly affected by motivation, particularly in science and engineering, which involves grasping complex content, high self-efficacy, and internal drive. In this study, researchers examined the motivating factors of MOOC completers according to their expected benefits and compared two groups: university-affiliated students and general participants in a science and engineering education context.
They conducted the study with 308 participants during the first iteration of a nanotechnology and nanosensors MOOC. The cohort was divided into 114 university-affiliated and 194 general students; the latter was further split into regular track, or free, participants (67), and signature track, or paid, participants (127). Joining a signature track allowed participants to securely link their coursework to their identity and receive a certificate, while the university-affiliated students took the MOOC for credit, answering the same quizzes and working on the same assignments as the general group. Motivating factors were grouped under three themes: career benefits, personal benefits, and educational benefits.
Overall, personal benefit, curiosity, and inquisitiveness about the subject were the major motivating factors for the paid group, who were mostly industry workers aged over 36. Acquiring a certificate was less popular with university-affiliated students, who enrolled for career advancement rather than credentials. The study also identified two new categories not present in the literature: "product development" and "professional competence." This suggests that MOOC completers and dropouts have different motivations, although researchers suggest further work is needed to empirically examine this assertion.Wikimedia.