GSE Faculty Research

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Online Learning: Official Journal of the Online Learning Consortium





Start Page


Last Page



Since "the year of the MOOC" in 2012, the effectiveness of massive open online course (MOOCs) has been widely debated. Some argue that MOOCs are not an effective mode of instructional delivery because of low completion rates. In the interest of developing alternative indicators of performance this study draws from recent efforts to measure engagement in social media, as well as from research on indicators of student engagement in traditional college courses. Using data from 16 Coursera MOOCs offered by the University of Pennsylvania we calculate standardized access rates for lectures and assessments. While these indicators have clear limitations as measures of educational progress they offer a different, more nuanced understanding of the level and nature of users' engagement with a MOOC. This paper shows that a very small share of uers takes up available opportunities to access course content but notes that the standardized access rates compare favorably with those for social media sites and with response rates to large-scale direct mail marketing programs. For MOOC providers and platform managers, indicators like the ones developed in this study may be a useful first step in monitoring the extent to which different types and combinations of activities may be providing better opportunities for learning.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Originally published in Online Learning © 2015 Online Learning Consortium. Reproduced with permission.



Date Posted: 06 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.