How does a MOOC impact on-campus student engagement?

Sarah Catharine Cornelius, Colin James Calder, Peter Mtika

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Flexible approaches to supporting student learning are becoming widespread across Universities, and the integration of MOOCs into on-campus provision is one approach which is receiving increasing attention. MOOCs can be used to create programmes of study equivalent to accredited courses (e.g. at the University of Leeds) or blended into on-campus study (Israel 2015). Blending MOOCs and on-campus provision offers opportunities for learners to engage with wider international cohorts, study flexibly, and experience digital learning. Israel (2015) suggests that there is evidence of equal or slightly increased student outcomes on blended courses with MOOCs, but there are also challenges and a need for further research.

At the University of Aberdeen an interdisciplinary course was re-designed to incorporate a MOOC in place of traditional lectures. Alongside the MOOC on-campus participants participated in tutorial and group work, and were assessed based on both MOOC tests and campus activities. Drawing on an approach used by Winthrup et al. (2015) student engagement on the course was explored using the Higher Education Academy’s Student Engagement Survey (UKES 2016). This was simultaneously administered to the on-campus MOOC participants and a wider cohort of students across the University. Data from the two groups of respondents were compared to explore how engagement differed across the two groups. Additional data from small group interviews and tutor reflections validated findings and provided further insights into learners’ experiences of the course.

This paper will outline the model developed for the course and present a selection of findings from the research. Analysis revealed that although there are many areas where measures of engagement show no significant differences across the two cohorts, there were some where differences were evident. These included measures for working with others and exploring complex real world problems, contributing to a joint community and understanding people of other backgrounds. Analysis of interviews provided insights into learners’ behaviour, their understanding of MOOCs and use of discussions to support learning. For instance learners reported that they were more likely to interact using the online discussions in the MOOC than contribute in a face to face setting, and they used the discussions in different ways to support individual learning.

Although based on the experiences of a small number of students on a single blended course, the findings raise issues about differences in approach between on-campus and ‘public’ MOOC learners, about the potential value of online social learning for on-campus students, and the effective integration of MOOCs in on-campus provision which add to previous evidence and may be of interest others designing blended learning and MOOCs.


Israel, M. (2015). Effectiveness of integrating MOOCs in traditional classrooms for undergraduate students, IRRODL, 16(5).

Wintrup, J., Wakefield, K., and Davis, H. C. (2015). Engaged learning in MOOCs: a study using the UK Engagement Survey, available at: resources/engaged-learning-in-moocs.pdf

UKES (2016). UK Engagement Survey. York: Higher Education Academy. Available at:

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2017
EventALT Annual Conference 2017 - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Sept 20177 Sept 2017


ConferenceALT Annual Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • MOOCs
  • learner engagement
  • blended learning


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  • FutureLearn Academic Network

    Sarah Catharine Cornelius (Speaker), Colin James Calder (Speaker) & Peter Mtika (Speaker)

    28 Feb 2018

    Activity: Attending or organising an eventAttending/organising Workshop, seminar, or course

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