Do students need to regulate their learning in Massive Open Online Courses?

Jacqueline Wong

To understand the impact of self-regulated learning (SRL) in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Lee, Watson, and Watson (2019) conducted a systematic review that identified 21 empirical studies examining SRL in MOOCs that were published between 2008 and 2016. Although a growing number of studies were found across the years, only two studies examined the impact of SRL on learning in MOOCs and both studies yield positive findings. This suggests that examining how subcomponents of SRL influence learning in MOOCs is still a much-needed area for future research. 

Self-efficacy was examined in six studies. Three studies showed that MOOC students have high self-efficacy, two studies showed that MOOC students’ self-efficacy is related to task familiarity, and one study showed that self-efficacy for English is related to use of cognitive strategies. Closely linked to self-efficacy of MOOC students was task value. Two studies showed that learners who have higher SRL placed greater value on the task of learning in MOOCs. Goal-setting was examined in five studies. Two studies showed that students with different levels of SRL set different types of goals: students with high SRL set goals on improving knowledge while students with low SRL set goals related to extrinsic outcomes. The remaining three studies showed that goal setting is related to better learning outcomes. The review also identified help-seeking, time-management, and effort regulation in the selected studies and the studies showed that these processes of SRL are critical to learning in MOOCs. 

The review identified four studies that examine six SRL interventions. Two interventions were software programs that help students to track their progress against others or course competencies. The other interventions included providing tips on SRL, discussing SRL strategies in a face-to-face study group, embedding retrieval practice cues in a video lecture, and providing a study planning module. Of all the interventions, only one of the software programs (i.e., Learning Tracker prototype widget) was effective in increasing final grades. 

Several studies identified in the review proposed design guidelines for promoting SRL in MOOCs. However, the design guidelines have a different focus on different aspects of SRL. Therefore, future studies should implement some of the design guidelines to examine how MOOCs can be redesigned to support SRL for a diverse set of students.

Lee, D., Watson, S. L., & Watson, W. R. (2019). Systematic literature review on self-regulated learning in massive open online courses. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology35(1), 28-41. 

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