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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) - Understanding Online Learners' Preferences and Experiences

This paper explores online learners' preferences and experiences of using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a leaning environment. The paper thus intends to investigate what online learners prefer and what they experience while using MOOCs.
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  227 ©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.   International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research   Vol. 18, No. 8, pp. 227-242, August 2019   https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.18.8.14   Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) –   Understanding Online Learners’ Preferences and Experiences   Herman Fassou Haba Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom Omkar Dastane 1   Senior Lecturer Cum Head –  Center for Postgraduate Studies, FTMS Global College, School of Accounting and Business, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Email: Abstract. This paper explores online learners’ preferences and experiences of using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a leaning environment. The paper thus intends to investigate what online learners prefer and what they experience while using MOOCs. The research employs exploratory approach using qualitative data. It considers reviews posted by the users of the two globally popular website for online learning namely edX (14 million learners) and Coursera (40 million learners). The total of 572 reviews is selected using simple random sampling. Selected reviews were refined based on language and appropriateness and then subjected to thematic analysis pinpointing and recording patterns of meaning (Themes). The thematic analysis presents a framework with eight dimensions to understand MOOC users’ preferences. These identified dimensions are course diversification, experience, pedagogy, support, convenience, ease of use, monetary and quality. The proposed framework can be used to enhance learners experience and continuity of using MOOCs. In future researches, the framework can be tested empirically for its reliability and validity in our future research. Keywords: MOOCs ; Learners’ Preference; Learners’ Experience; Qualitative Study; Online Learning.   1. Introduction MOOCs being Massive Open Online Courses are based on creating a right educational environment for learners through the internet which is based on 1  Corresponding author:omkar.dastane@gmail.com; Both authors contributed equally to this manuscript.  228 ©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.   convenience and learner satisfaction of taking a course online. The term of MOOCs has taken the attraction of many scholars and researchers in the field of educational science which is seen as a new revolution to define connectivist learning on networks (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). Throughout these decades, there are several online companies which have invested heavily on MOOCs in order to engage learners online due to the tremendous shift which is being seen with the advancement of technology and the rise of big data and artificial intelligence, a lot of learners are abandoning the traditional way of learning and getting much more interested to online education due to convenience, quality teaching, engagement and the affordability of online education. The value proposed by online education has taken over the whole industry, it is seemed unstoppable and it is observed by some as an upcoming tsunami that is mandatory, if you do not adapt the system, you can be either crushed or you can surf it by welcoming the revolution in the educational sector (Mckenna, 2012). However, the scientific knowledge and comprehension concerning MOOCs is at an early stage and there is still a big challenge and issues concerning the engagement of learners as well as their continuance and MOOCs applications, one shall question whether this inflated aspects related to MOOCs and the respective contribution to development on the level of intellect or it is genuinely resulting from innovative technologies emerged of late. Nevertheless, Interest in MOOCs is increasing by real press attention given to some companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity by mainstream press (Mckenna, 2012). The aim of this paper is to understand the real psychological threats and understanding between the MOOCs companies and learners by using a qualitative research method based on thematic analysis technique. The paper intends to explore what learners’ prefer for using and experience while using MOOCs. The corresponding research question is what are the various preference factors of learners for using MOOCs as a learning environment? 2. Literature Review MOOCs being the abbreviation of Massive Open Online Courses had been quoted by researchers and scholars since Siemens and Downes (2005) opened the first MOOC concentrated on connectivism and connective knowledge online course in 2008, though the theoretical assumptions of connectivist had been seen as the learning theory of MOOC by several researchers (Tschofen and Mackness, 2012). Therefore, the real educational theory of MOOCs which is now very popular is the theory of connectivism based on comprehending learning in a digital age. Definition of Key Term :  A massive open online course (MOOC)  is defined by scholars as an online tutoring or lecture aiming at unlimited attendees and open access via the web (Hussin, 2012). Some other researchers and practitioners defined MOOC as distance learning in terms of correspondence courses which gave birth to e-learning and make education accessible to massive audience of learners around the world.    229 ©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.   Connectivism: Siemens and Downes (2005) Theoretical Assumption:   this is a theory related to learning and it elaborates how various technologies based on internet such as Web browsers, email, wikis, online discussion forums, social networks, YouTube, and any other tool, have contributed in creation of new opportunities for leaning and sharing information across the web of internet as well as with other people. (Siemens, 2005). For understanding connectivism theory as an important part of the MOOC is that it might play an important role across peer to peer learning and also providing learning to a massive audience of learners that a traditional lecturer in a lecture cannot do in his or her entire life, however with the assumption theory of connectivism in this digital age, MOOC is really being integrated in learners life due to distributed cognition, knowledge sharing, social networks and open educational resources (Downes, 2008). Comprehensively, the theoretical assumption of connectivism are based on the following principles: the process of joining specialized sources of information is learning, non-human appliances or systems can accommodate and facilitate the learning, knowing is important but learning is more critical, continual learning is facilitated by nurturing and maintenance of connections between fields, core skills include concepts and ideas, objective of learning is to keep one self-up-to-date in knowledge, and lastly, learning process is inclusive of decision making. ((Downes, 2008; Siemens, 2005).   Understandably, there had been some criticism concerning the theory of connectivism which is not widely accepted by all scholars. According to Hayes (2015), criticizing connectivism of being pedagogical view instead because it does not address the issue of how to enable learners at the instructional level. Moreover, from the perspective of connectivism theory, it is very important to make a sound connection to current literature associated to online learning and teaching, it can impact the facilitation and design of online learning and teaching which are made simple with objective easy facilitation of discussion on MOOCs research (Ertmer and Newby, 1993). Educator decisions which are driven by the epistemological and ontological stances particularly when such decision are confronted with situational variables in the context of lecturing and online instruction set up were assessed by some researchers. Roblyer and Doering (2013) espoused a perspective comprising of objectivist learning theories consisting information processing on one hand and constructivist learning theories which are inquiry based on the other hand. Therefore, in order to engage learners to online teaching, there are several aspects of online teaching that shall be taken into consideration such as leaners engagement, learning experience, price of the course, features, content quality and ease of use. In most literature related to MOOCs, scholars have been addressing those factors to understand whether it is im pacting and influencing learners’ adaption of online learning website. Latest Empirical researches in the field of MOOCs: There are several studies done in the field of open online courses around the world, however, the notable ones are done in the western world wanting to be the pillar of modern education with MOOCs. Bozkurt, Ozdamar Keskin, and De Waard (2016), study on research trends in massive open online courses (MOOCs) from dissertations published from 2008 to 2015 in terms of identifying research trends from the  230 ©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.   academic documents. However, trends in research themes were uncovered by employing systematic review approach focusing on theoretical backgrounds, and the data analysis method used is content analysis. The findings of their research study indicates that MOOCs education are much more related to computer science, information technology, education and engineering field of study as a new trends of MOOCs literature. Bozkurt, Akgün-özbek, and Zawacki-Richter (2017); study in terms of understanding the patterns in MOOCs research: review and content analysis of research on MOOCs (2008-2015). Using qualitative research method to fully understand the phenomenon with data collected through review of 362 empirical studies published in various peer-reviewed journals ranging from 2008 to 2015. Content analysis was utilized in order to analyze the information of the research study. Therefore, the findings showed that MOOC studies do not benefit from being viewed through theoretical lenses. The study of Zawacki-Richter, Bozkurt, Alturki, and Aldraiweesh (2018), on what research says about MOOCs with an explorative content analysis by reviewing 362 empirical articles published in peer-reviewed journals from 2008 to 2015. Comprehensively, a text mining tool was used to analyze the content of the published research journal articles and findings of the study demonstrates four dimensions that can line of research and are as followed: the potential and challenges of MOOCs for universities, MOOC platforms, learners and content in MOOCs and lastly the quality of MOOCs and instructional design issues. The study of Al-Rahmi et al. (2019) on massive open online courses (MOOCs) with data on higher education by systematic collection of 219 articles from 2012 to 2017 which were related to MOOCs in higher education. Five variables were used such as intention to use, interaction engagement, motivations and satisfaction associated to the improvement of MOOCs students’ academic performance can be influenced by MOOC which has the advantage of facilitating the learning process through offering materials and enabling the share of information. Armellini and Aiyegbayo (2010), on the pedagogical innovation of massive open online courses, using a survey questionnaire of different stakeholders describing MOOCs, 106 respondents described MOOCs as free, openly accessible online courses that can attract large numbers of participants. 15.1% of the respondents surveyed believed that MOOCs are pedagogically innovative but the remaining believes it is really pedagogically innovative. Research Gap: There are a lot of researches done in field of massive open online courses (MOOCs) which aimed at participants. However, most of the studies often focused on understanding the content analysis of peer review in order to identify key trends and factors which can drive the intention to use MOOCs and the retention of learners on MOOCs platform. Few studies used thematic analysis research method to analyze learners concern from the reviews in order to derive key factors which unable their intention to use MOOCs and their satisfaction to continuously interact with the MOOC applications. Therefore, this research will fill the gap of understanding recent users concern, preferences and  231 ©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.   experiences of utilizing MOOCs and make a meaning contribution into a MOOCs literature. 3. Methodology In this methodology, there is a clear highlight concerning the nature of the research aim which is based on understanding the key factors which can enable the interaction of learners and MOOCs from the learner view point. Therefore, the research method which is going to be used in this study is a qualitative research method that is based on inductive approach, where the researcher undertakes detailed observations of the world and moves towards more abstract generalizations and ideas. As an inductive approach utilized in this research study for the purpose of identifying important factors can be identified and be useful for existing literature in the field of MOOCs. Furthermore, positivism research philosophy is used in this research study in order to undertake the analysis of the study for knowledge claim. According to Creswell (2013), knowledge claim means that researchers start a project with certain assumptions about how they will learn and what they will learn during their enquiry which is based on research philosophy with the consideration of exploratory research design which can lead to a better data collection. Data Collection Technique: Learners Reviews from edX and Coursera : The use of the two popular website for online learning in the world based in the United States, it is important to comprehend and know that edX is currently having more than 14 million learners and Coursera is actually having more than 40 million learners. So getting data and information on those popular websites for online education is significant for this research study. However, the data collection being a secondary data collection method from the two giants of online education industry in the world, the data reviews information of learners who have experienced the two websites. Though, the data source is going to be popular online consumer reviews which are consumer affairs, sitejabber and trustpilot. The qualitative information that is collected is recent reviews from two websites namely https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.edx.org and https://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/coursera.org. Sample Technique: This study is going to be undertaken with a simple random sampling method in terms of selecting learner reviews from popular consumer affairs review. According to Rice (2007),   simple random sample is a subset of individuals chosen from a larger set (a population). The selection of each review is randomly done and so is by chance, in a way that each review has the same and equal probability of being selected at any stage of sampling process. The total reviews selected for the analysis are 572 out of which we eliminated 18 reviews which are written in poor English. Further elimination is carried out with ‘inappropriateness of language’ as criteria. T his includes harsh, extreme or offensive word. We eliminated 22 reviews through this filter. Equal number of reviews is taken from both platforms and 8 reviews were further eliminated being repetitive in nature. Therefore total reviews used for the thematic analysis are 524. There review is then numbered from 1 to 524. Summary of selected sample reviews are as follows.
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