MOOCs and Education Access: Evidence from New Zealand
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enrol in and are aimed at unlimited participation (Siemens, 2013). One aim of MOOCs is to increase the accessibility of tertiary education to people who would not usually have access to it.
The past decade has seen a rapid development of these courses with a stream of research focused on this new teaching innovation. While there has been research on how MOOCs are developed and why students enrol in MOOCs, there has been relatively less research focused on the accessibility to students in different countries, including those that could be considered less economically developed.
This study used a mixed-methods research approach to examine the relationship between MOOCs and the education access of these courses for students, internationally. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from both the students' and lecturers' perspectives of two MOOCs taught in a New Zealand university. Quantitative data on the students' demographics and motivations were provided by the EdX platform. These data indicated that most students enrolled in the two MOOCs were from developed countries. Correlation analysis and multivariate regression were used to examine the relationship between students' participation rate and development level in the country where the students were studying. The statistical results indicate that students from developed countries were more likely to enrol in the MOOCs than students from developing countries.
Given that MOOCs aim to engage diverse groups of students globally, qualitative data in the form of interviews were used to address the following questions: What are the lecturers' motivations to teach these MOOCs; which groups of students did the lecturers target in their teaching; and how did the lecturers adapt the courses to cater for the learners' diversity? The lecturers anticipated that most MOOCs students were from developed countries and had tertiary degrees. Although the lecturers applied several approaches to engage diverse groups of students, their demographics were largely aligned with the lecturers' expectations. The role of the MOOCs in increasing accessibility to higher education for students who were traditionally excluded was limited.