Factors that help students complete MOOCs

My mini thesis research question is ‘what factors help students to complete Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)?’ The first challenge that I expected was finding such a student that has completed a MOOC.  The percentage of students completing a MOOC might be very low (Yang, Sinha, Adamson, & Rose, 2013). I thought that it would difficult be to find such a student who has completed a MOOC and would be willing to participate in the data collection process. However, I invited my group mates to participate in the interview and two of them accepted.

Agreeing on a suitable time for the interview was not a problem. It took place on campus of Nazarbayev University during lunch time. I planned to conduct the interview for 25-30 minutes, however it took only fifteen minutes.

In my small scale research, I utilized semistructured interview as a data collection instrument, as it is ‘one of the most powerful ways in which we try to understand our fellow human beings’ (Fontana and Frey, 2000, as cited in Creswell, 2014, p 46). I think, this is the most important advantage of semistructured interview. The weak part of it maybe related to the quality of the questions that I constructed. The answers of the respondent is much more dependent to the interviewer’s ability to conduct a good interview.

My thesis research project has some similar features with the small scale study. For example, one of my research questions for thesis is ‘What factors help teachers integrate ICT in mathematics lessons?’. I am going to use semistructured interviews for the thesis too in order to explore teachers’ experience. Experience that I gained from conducting small scale interview will help me to better prepare for the process of data collection for thesis research. One of the lessons that I learned is that I need to include more subquestions for the semistructured interview in order to get more information. The other strategy that I am thinking about is to take a preliminary interview with a teacher in order to test the questions. However this strategy I may apply in the future research, since my preious research design is already approved.


Creswell, J. W. (2014). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Yang, D., Sinha, T., Adamson, D., & Rose, C. P. (2013, December). Turn on, tune in, drop out: Anticipating student dropouts in massive open online courses. In Proceedings of the 2013 NIPS Data-Driven Education Workshop (Vol. 11, p. 14).

3 thoughts on “Factors that help students complete MOOCs

  1. Dear Talgat,

    I also conducted semi-structured interviews for my research, and I, too, experienced similar problems.
    Was it your first time interviewing someone for research purposes? If so, how will this experience help you in your main study? If not, how was this time different?
    I am very interested to know these details.
    Thank you,



    1. Yes, Dostan, it was the first time when I interviewed for the research purpose.
      When transcribing I realized that the quality sound was not good enough sometimes. Next time, I will use a different device for recording.

      The other thing that I realized is that I need to learn how to pose good follow up questions that would make the participant speak more:)

      Happy researching!:)


  2. Talgat,

    I am glad to hear that the mini-thesis research helped you with your actual thesis data collection.

    Your references are well written, but be sure to double-space them and use “hanging indent.” APA style requires this. Hanging indent means that the first line of your reference is at the left margin and subsequent lines are indented a half-inch.

    3 out of 5 (late post)



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