The MOOC Phenomenon: Who Takes Massive Open Online Courses and Why?

25 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2014  

Gayle Christensen

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania

Andrew Steinmetz

Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania

Brandon Alcorn

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania

Amy Bennett

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania

Deirdre Woods

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania

Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Office of the Provost, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Department of Health Care Management, University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: November 6, 2013

Abstract

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have commanded considerable public attention due to their sudden rise and disruptive potential. But there are no robust, published data that describe who is taking these courses and why they are doing so. As such, we do not yet know how transformative the MOOC phenomenon can or will be. We conducted an online survey of students enrolled in at least one of the University of Pennsylvania’s 32 MOOCs offed on the Coursera platform. The student population tends to be young, well educated, and employed, with a majority from developed countries. There are significantly more males than females taking MOOCs, especially in BRIC and other developing countries. Students’ main reasons for taking a MOOC are advancing in their current job and satisfying curiosity. The individuals the MOOC revolution is supposed to help the most — those without access to higher education in developing countries — are underrepresented among the early adopters.

Keywords: MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, Online Education, Distance Education

Suggested Citation

Christensen, Gayle and Steinmetz, Andrew and Alcorn, Brandon and Bennett, Amy and Woods, Deirdre and Emanuel, Ezekiel J., The MOOC Phenomenon: Who Takes Massive Open Online Courses and Why? (November 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2350964 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2350964

Gayle Christensen

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Andrew Steinmetz

Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Brandon Alcorn (Contact Author)

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Amy Bennett

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Deirdre Woods

Office of the Provost, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Office of the Provost, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Department of Health Care Management, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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