The authors of the study said that they found some signs of MOOCs’ potential to allow a course or area of study to reach new audiences.

Using a geolocation database to identify where students were logging in, the researchers could pinpoint what country a student was in and, in some cases, even the city. Students logged in from 194 countries around the world.

With 26,333 students, the largest number of participants came from the United States. India had the second highest number of students with 13,044.

Rounding out the top five countries were the United Kingdom, with 8,430 students; Columbia, with 5,900 students; and Spain, with 3,684 students. While there had been speculation that the course would have a large number of participants from China, the study noted, only 622 of the registrants were Chinese.

Sixty-seven percent of the students spoke English and 16 percent spoke Spanish.

The study concluded that MOOCs are a “different animal” than traditional college courses and that they pose a particular challenge to researchers.

“The data are more numerous and at a finer grain than have ever been generated from one single course before,” the authors wrote. “The students are more diverse in far more ways—in their countries of origin, the languages they speak, the prior knowledge the come to the classroom with, their age, their reasons for enrolling in the course. They do not follow the norms and rules that have governed university courses for centuries nor do they need to.”


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