RQ2: Incentives That Massive Open Online Coursers Should Rely on To Engage More Online Users to Complete Coursers When They Are Enrolled

Some of the incentives are more effective on some specific targets. For example, users that aim to master new skills in order to find new jobs are more motivated when they know that the skills acquired from the course will help them accomplish their goal. In contrast, some users are motivated to enrol and complete a course based on their personal interests, hobbies, and curiosities. This category of people may perceive the value of the certificate very low since it is not crucial for their needs. Therefore, Coursera should rely more in strategies to trigger their internal motivation. Such things can be the use of gamification, challenges, and competition. However, the level of difficulty should be adapted to the user skill in a way that since users use their spare time to study, it takes into consideration the users efforts.

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RQ3: The Reasons for Dropping out Of Coursers from the Learner’s Perspective

 Since the reasons for completing a course and enrolling a Coursera are different, users have also different motivations for dropping out from a course. The first major finding showed that users drop out mainly because, while they are enrolled, the motivation for concluding the thesis becomes less important in their priorities. In this case, it is important to explain that users access Coursera in their spare time and learn something new as a hobby or personal interests. As such, when external reasons such as job trips or school exams occur to the user, the priority for completing a course becomes lower compared to the major tasks that the user needs to do. Furthermore, when a user misses a deadline, he/she starts to be less motivated to finish a course because he/she will need more effort to complete the assignments since he/she has to study the materials that he/she missed while he/she was not participating in the course. Consequently, the user has to increase his/her efforts in completing the course making the user perceive the course as something too hard to finish as opposed to an enjoyment in learning. Moreover, since it is possible to enrol again in the courses, users can always decide to drop out from a course and start again when they want.

 A second ground for users dropping out of a course is where they achieve their goal before they complete their course. Specifically, some of the users enrol to a course with the only interest of learning a specific lesson or just following a video. The reason is that since users learn something new week after week and Coursera does not know what will satisfy the user, it is rational to think that the trend of drop out will continue to be negative from the first lesson until the last one.

The third reason why users drop out is that they continue learning in another platform or in another website as users try to learn something new. Notably, some users may start to learn from Coursera. Indeed, MOOC platforms offer real courses where users have a curriculum about what they will learn. Additionally, there are universities that create the courses and, therefore, users find Coursera as the starting point in learning something new. However, while users enrol to a course, they may decide to continue their learning platforms in other websites because they want to go more in detail or because the material offered by the platform is not satisfying the users’ needs anymore.

The fourth category why users drop out is the ease in access and enrolment to a course. Specifically, the physical and mental efforts to enrol in a course is minimal compared to normal universities. Remarkably, to enter to a normal university the student is required to have a certain GPA or a certain amount of credits. This implies that there is a huge effort just to enrol in one of them. However, in Coursera and the other MOOCs, the situation is the complete opposite. As such, there is a risk that users may be triggered by the fact that is too easy to access and enrol to a course. Indeed, Agne explain this example as “making shopping for free”. The trade off to take in consideration is that: a user’s effort to enrol in a course is low but the effort to complete a course is quite significant. This may especially affect new users who join the platform because they do not know how much effort they will need to put in a course. However, as soon users start to engage with the material of a course, they begin to realize.

Conclusion

Since the launch of the first Massive Open Online Courser, the concept of providing free education to thousands of people around the globe is becoming more than a simple paradigm.  Through this study, it was possible to go through the main characteristic of MOOCs with an emphasis on the platform of Coursera. In the specific, the purpose of this research was to describe the common patterns among users that complete coursers and those that do not complete. Specifically, an emphasis was placed on the effectiveness of incentives in users’ motivation when they are enrolled in a course. Additionally, a grounded theory approach was used to analyse the data collected through six interviews as well as a pilot interview. When the information from the interviews was analysed some common patterns were established among the past research and the results evidenced in this study.

One of the main finding was that users’ motivations differs from their background. Explicitly, there are varieties of reasons as to why users enrol, complete, and drop out of a course. This make sense if we think about that the user base of Coursera, which is more than fifteen million users (updated up to September 2015).

From the analysis made in this study, some common patterns on the processes that users go through while they are enrolled were found. The conceptual model in Fig 8 represents the process that a user goes through while he/she is enrolled in a course. As described in the figure, there are mainly three components that characterize users’ behaviour while they are enrolled in a course: users’ motivation, course characteristics, and potential achievement.

Most of the users access Coursera because the interests of learning something new drives them. These reasons may either be for personal interest, like hobbies or just curiosities, or career development. Indeed, many users stated that the skills learned while they were enrolled in a course were mainly for use in their career life.

While analysing the answers of the interviews, it was also possible to understand that some characteristics of the course affected the users’ motivation and their potential achievement. Additionally, the external content provided from the platform from external sources seemed to be an important characteristic to engage students in using Coursera. Indeed, for some users, the integration of external content and the videos provided from the platform is one of the best things that they favoured. Particularly, the access to external material is possible even without having an access to Corusera and still, are free. Furthermore, users prefer to do assignments that requires the use of their creative thoughts or those that are more “practical”. Indeed exercises like multiple quizzes or closed questions seemed to demotivate users to complete a course because it is hard for them to see an outcome from it.

Potential achievement represents that category that affects users’ behaviour in the decision to continue or drop out of a course. The challenges existing in learning a course is one of the main aspects that users consider. If the level of difficulty is too high or too low, a user may be less motivated to continue his/her learning path. However, when the level of difficulty is integrated to the background of the user, it is more likely that he/she will continue to learn and complete the course. Moreover, performance measures such as the grading system, helps a user track his/her performance.

Another major finding is that users’ behaviours change while enrolled in a course. In this regard, although users are more intrinsically motivated to enrol in coursera, they do not make any distinction as to whether they are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. They are motivated based on what is more valuable and relevant in the moment that they are following a course. As such, it is plausible to state that users have different priorities when they enrol. Additionally, these priorities may change from the beginning of the courser until the end. Moreover, they may be for external or internal reasons.

In conclusion, it was possible to define four categories or reasons as to why users drops out of their courses. The main reason found is lack of time or because the course chosen does not fulfil their needs. Moreover, it was also found that users follow coursera classes until the moment they fulfil their needs. Precisely, as soon they master the skills that they want to learn, they lose motivation and interests in completing the course.