MOOC retention

6 ways to increase MOOC retention

University increases the percentage of student retention by more than five times over the course of one year by utilizing social components in their MOOC.

An International Example

St. George’s University (SGU), specializing in international education, held its first MOOC in 2013 with its course “One Health One Medicine” (OHOM) and again in 2014, 2015, 2016 and presently in 2017.

The 2013 OHOM MOOC was delivered on a standard online platform available and used for several MOOC courses. The course was scheduled for an eight week period with seven content modules including: History of Medicine, Introduction to One Health One Medicine, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Zoonotic Diseases, Food Safety, Environmental Health and International Health.

The scope of the course was matched with the diversity of over 3000 students completing SGU OHOM MOOCs from more than 45 countries across all continents. Since 2013, OHOM MOOCs are delivered on the online platform, SGUx, designed and built by SGU for offering online courses.

The courses additionally included student engagement tools and applications such as interactive blog domain for discussion questions, interactive case study reviews, peer review student seminar presentations and live virtual office hours and presentation, communication through social media and comprehensive examination for course credit.

6 Components for MOOC Retention

With each new OHOM MOOC offering, the course had greater percentage retention than the previous course. The deliberate effort towards increasing the number of students who completed the course became a prioritized goal to be achieved.

Course development included six components considered critical for retention:

  1. Live sessions where presentations were made as well as engaged discussion on a weekly basis connected to the relevant module in a given week.
  2. Blog submissions were interactive as students commented and critiqued each others postings which added another learning dimension to the course experience.
  3. Peer review evaluations of student-prepared and submitted seminar presentations allowed students the opportunity to learn from each other’s work as well as engage in the course assessment process.
  4. Course communications among students and with instructors were facilitated with chat tools on the SGUx platform which was linked to social media outlets and allowed for a rapid communication rate and following throughout the course.
  5. The offer of a credit after successfully completing the course requirements
  6. A comprehensive proctored final exam was also accepted by the students as a quantifiable incentive for retaining their involvement in the course.

The increased interactions among students and with the course instructors produced a retention rate of 58.5 percent in 2014 to 2016 as compared to the 11.1 percent in 2013. The interactive tools and applications implemented for 2014 increased the percentage retention by more than five times the 2013 percentage retention.

The OHOM MOOC experiences by SGU have also facilitated the continued development of a learning community which have progressed through several of the MOOCs together. The shared interest for learning and the diverse experiences among those that participate in the course encourages a pleasant and productive educational experience.

Interactive learning with the relevant online infrastructure provided live engagement of students through delivering course content, course discussions, peer review evaluations and social media communications was found to be effective in significantly increasing the retention rate of students in the OHOM MOOC offered by SGU.


He J., Bailey J., Rubinstein B.I.P., and Zhang R. (2015). Identifying At-Risk Students in Massive Open Online Courses. Copyright © 2015, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (

Head K. (2014). Are MOOCs the Future of General Education? The Journal of General Education: A Circular of the Humanities and Sciences, Vol. 63, No. 4, 2014

Hew K.F. (2015). Towards a Model of Engaging Online Students: Lessons from MOOCs and Four Policy Documents. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 5, No. 6, June 2015

Khalil H. and Ebner M. (2014). MOOCs Completion Rates and Possible Methods to Improve Retention – A Literature Review. World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2014, 1236-1244

Koutropoulos A and Zaharias P. (2015). “Down the Rabbit Hole: An initial typology of issues around the development of MOOCs,” Current Issues of Emerging eLearning: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 4.

Krause M., Mogalle M., Pohl H and Williams J.J. (2015). A Playful Game Changer: Fostering Student Retention in Online Education with Social Gamification. L@S 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

eSchool Media Contributors