Demographic Differences in How Students Navigate Through MOOCs

, and . Proceedings of the First ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale Conference, page 21--30. New York, NY, USA, ACM, (2014)


The current generation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) attract a diverse student audience from all age groups and over 196 countries around the world. Researchers, educators, and the general public have recently become interested in how the learning experience in MOOCs differs from that in traditional courses. A major component of the learning experience is how students navigate through course content. This paper presents an empirical study of how students navigate through MOOCs, and is, to our knowledge, the first to investigate how navigation strategies differ by demographics such as age and country of origin. We performed data analysis on the activities of 140,546 students in four edX MOOCs and found that certificate earners skip on average 22\% of the course content, that they frequently employ non-linear navigation by jumping backward to earlier lecture sequences, and that older students and those from countries with lower student-teacher ratios are more comprehensive and non-linear when navigating through the course. From these findings, we suggest design recommendations such as for MOOC platforms to develop more detailed forms of certification that incentivize students to deeply engage with the content rather than just doing the minimum necessary to earn a passing grade. Finally, to enable other researchers to reproduce and build upon our findings, we have made our data set and analysis scripts publicly available.

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