Could this overlooked component be the key to MOOC engagement?

By Meris Stansbury, Managing Editor, @eSN_Meris
June 3rd, 2015

Researchers say formative assessment plays a critical role in student retention.

formative-assessment-MOOCAnalyzing over 4,000 student comments and reviews of the 7 most active and highly-rated MOOCs, researchers say formative and peer assessment strategies in relation to MOOCs directly affect student engagement.

According to researchers at the Open University of Catalonia (OUC), Spain, research on student engagement in MOOCs exists for non-didactic factors (profiles, demographics, institutional reputation) and didactic factors (course structure and content, workload and duration, type of exams and assessments), but little research has been conducted to determine whether different types of assessment (formative, non-formative, peer and self-assessment) or different student feedback approaches actually affect student engagement.

With the aim of providing specific research-based recommendations on formative assessment and feedback practices that can advance student activity, “we analyzed some significant research papers on formative assessments and feedback methods applicable to face-to-face teaching environments that advance student engagement, and concluded with related requirements and conditions that can be applied also to MOOCs,” explained Nikolaos Floratos, PhD researcher at OUC and lead author of the report.

Researchers also analyzed 4050 comments and reviews of the 7 most active and highly-rated MOOCs (6 from Coursera and 1 from edX) provided by students who are in the final stages of completing those courses via an online review platform for MOOCs, called CourseTalk.

Based on this content analysis, Floratos and his team formulated 14 recommendations that support what the researchers say is a new conceptual and theoretical framework analysis on formative assessment in relation to MOOC engagement.

(Next page: The new theoretical framework)

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