Brief interventions help online learners persist with coursework, Stanford research finds

Posted on February 2nd, 2017

A new study from Stanford University looks at MOOC learners in less-developed countries and how small psychological activities can help motivate their learning. According to René Kizilcec, the lead author of the study, “MOOCs have expanded access to education but this doesn’t guarantee equal opportunities for people around the world.” He notes that access to the courses isn’t enough—people also have to feel welcome in the learning environments. In the study, the team asked learners in two MOOCs to complete an online activity. Some learners were asked to read and summarize testimonials from former students, who described how they became more comfortable in the course after initially being worried about belonging. Other learners were asked to complete an affirmation activity, where they wrote about how taking the course reflects and serves their values. Results showed that the activities helped double the persistence of learners, and the affirmation activity raised completion rates from 17 percent to 41 percent.