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Students’ and instructors’ use of massive open online courses (MOOCs): Motivations and challenges

TitleStudents’ and instructors’ use of massive open online courses (MOOCs): Motivations and challenges
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsHew, K. F., & Cheung W. S.
PublisherEducational Research Review
Start Page45
IssueJune 2014
Pagination45 - 58
Date Published06/2014
Keywordse-learning, MOOC, motivation, online learning

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are among the latest e-learning initiative to attain widespread popularity among many universities. In this paper, a review of the current published literature focusing on the use of MOOCs by instructors or students was conducted. Our primary goal in doing this is to summarize the accumulated state of knowledge concerning the main motivations and challenges of using MOOCs, as well as to identify issues that have yet to be fully addressed or resolved. Our findings suggest four reasons why students sign up for MOOCs: the desire to learn about a new topic or to extend current knowledge, they were curious about MOOCs, for personal challenge, and the desire to collect as many completion certificates as possible. Up to 90% drop out due to reasons including a lack of incentive, failure to understand the content material and having no one to turn to for help, and having other priorities to fulfill. Findings suggest three main reasons why instructors wish to teach MOOCs: being motivated by a sense of intrigue, the desire to gain some personal (egoistic) rewards, or a sense of altruism. Four key challenges of teaching MOOCs are also surfaced: difficulty in evaluating students’ work, having a sense of speaking into a vacuum due to the absence of student immediate feedback, being burdened by the heavy demands of time and money, and encountering a lack of student participation in online forums. We conclude by discussing two issues that have yet to be fully resolved – the quality of MOOC education, and the assessment of student work.

• Most MOOCs use recorded video lectures and discussion forums to engage students.
• Students enrol in MOOCs mainly to learn a new topic or increase current knowledge.
• However, dropout rate is high; only 10–20% of students complete the courses.
• Instructors offer MOOCs due to a sense of intrigue, altruism, or egoistic motives.
• Quality of MOOC education and MOOC business model are some unresolved issues.


2014 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Short TitleEducational Research Review
Refereed DesignationRefereed
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