Monday, November 4, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m.,
204 LC (South)

Presenter: Kerrie Douglas, Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering Education, Purdue University


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are increasingly being used for formal training, certification, and degrees. Yet, very little is known about learners’ experiences in these large online courses. To improve the courses, there is a need to examine learners’ feedback across courses. The purpose of this research is to find patterns of feedback within subject areas and between subject areas.

We analyzed open-ended learner feedback for three post-survey questions for four-course areas: Arts, Business and Law, Health, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) on the FutureLearn platform. In total there were 575 unique courses (some with multiple re-runs totaling 810-course offerings) with the unique number of courses in each area being: Arts-193, Business and Law-147, Health-125, and STEM-110. The three post-course survey questions learners analyzed were: Q1) What was your favorite part of the course, and why? Q2) What was your least favorite part of the course, and why? and Q3) How could the course be improved? The number of responses for these questions for each of the study areas were: Arts – 51000, Business and Law-18000, Health-42000 and STEM-8000.

We used the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) topic model to determine prominent topics in the responses and interpreted these topics using qualitative analysis. For interpreting the topic themes, we qualitatively examined a) top words that defined the topic, and b) learners’ responses most representative of the topic.

We discovered that there were few topics common across subject areas for all post-survey questions, such as course content, real-life applications, and peer and mentor interactions. Additionally, learners from different subject areas wanted improvements on the course length and weekly time commitment. Topics specific to subject areas provided better insight on learners’ experience. Instructors, instructional design staff and MOOC platforms can use the results from this study recommendations for improving course design to improve the learning experience for MOOCs in different areas.