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MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) are increasingly used by higher education providers to promote their fee-paying programs or courses. This is particularly the case for university institutions, many of whom offer MOOCs to showcase their brand and to attract additional students. However, while multiple studies have examined the reasons why individuals enrol into MOOCs, little is understood about the effect of course engagement on their later educational goals and enrolment behaviour. The current work redresses this gap by investigating the effectiveness of MOOCs as a free trial of the aligned university’s courses, including the impact of MOOC engagement and completion on participants’ future study intentions and choices.

This research uses a mixed methods approach to examine the goals, attitudes and selection preferences of MOOC students concerning universities and university study. This was accomplished through the use of two separate longitudinal studies of MOOC participants. The first of these consisted of a demographic survey and two sets of individual interviews (pre and post-MOOC) with 19 participants enrolled in a course on business analysis. The second study involved the use of pre- and post MOOC surveys of 106 participants enrolled into courses on project management and cyber security.

The findings from both these studies show that engagement with a MOOC can positively influence the future university intentions of participants as well as their choice of an academic provider. In the case of an increased intention to enrol at university, this was typically accompanied by an increase in the number of goals which participants thought could be successfully reached through a university pathway. The main catalyst for this change did not appear to involve the successful completion of a MOOC; rather, it was particularly evident for those who attended an in-MOOC information session that focused on the goal-benefits of university study.

In terms of participants’ post-MOOC enrolment intentions and consideration processes for the host university, a dedicated marketing session appeared to have little effect, as did MOOC completion or participants’ educational background. Instead, satisfaction both with the overall MOOC experience as well as with particular elements (learning materials and teaching style) emerged as the most important factors. These results highlight the marketing potential of Massive Open Online Courses as a pathway into higher education, giving hope of a sustainable future for a technology that has often been considered financially unviable.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • D'Alessandro, Steve, Principal Supervisor
  • Johnson, Lester, Co-Supervisor, External person
  • White, Lesley, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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