Motivational and self-regulation competencies to
prevent dropout and enhance individual
performance in Massive Online Open Courses
Elena González Tinoco
Isidro Maya Jariego
Universidad de Sevilla
About Self-regulated learning and Self-regulation
Why is learning so particular in MOOCs?
Self-regulation in MOOCs.
Motivation in MOOCs.
Dropout in MOOCs and how to prevent it.
• In a world where there is an overload of information, it is important to develop
competencies which allow us to keep focused on the goals and not to lose the
attention during the process.
• In that sense, self-regulation competencies are now more necessary than ever before,
to learn in a digital context.
• Self-regulation involves the use of cognitive strategies (for acquisition, storage and
retrieval of information), and metacognitive strategies, i.e. the student's ability to
control and reflect on his or her own learning process.
• Here we present a specific case of digital practices where these competencies are
particularly important: MOOCs; which demands effective independent learning and
where high dropout rates are quite usual.
• Self-regulated learning (SRL) can be defined as the self-determined and active
efforts to begin activities directed towards learning goals.
• SRL involves interactions among personal, behavioral and environmental factors,
and includes abilities to control, monitor, plan, and evaluate the learning process.
• SRL involves having confidence in the own capabilities, motivation, and skills to
• Self-regulation competencies can be defined as the competencies to plan,
perform, and evaluate the learning process autonomously, which involves certain
decisions about cognitive, motivational and behavioural factors.
Self-regulated learning: A cyclic process with 3 phases
the task, application
of cognitive learning
POST-ACTION PHASE (self-
reflection and self-evaluation of
learning outcomes and
motivational and emotional
(goal setting, analyses
of task demands,
learning strategies and
Cognitive strategies (for acquisition, storage and retrieval of information):
• Knowledge about cognition: declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge.
• Self-regulation of cognition: planning, monitoring, and evaluating.
Resource management strategies:
• Regulation of motivation and emotions: self-efficacy, attribution, goal orientation,
• Environmental structuring.
• Time management.
• Strategies for seeking help.
It`s designed for a huge number of people.
No fees, and available for everyone.
Virtual support; Internet connection can be
accessed by students from everywhere at
anytime (flexible learning).
MOOCs make sense in the context of globalization and internationalization processes
and represent an alternative way to access Higher Education.
The offer of MOOCs in Higher Education has grown steadily in recent years. However,
these types of courses show very high dropout rates, above 90 percent.
They are massive.
The learning happens in a virtual setting.
Face-to-face tutorials are not very usual.
There is not close monitoring by teachers.
Learning is flexible students decide about where, when and how to
access the course.
There are not fees needed to enrol (sometimes small charges).
Final certificates for the course completion are not common.
That explains the big importance of motivation and self-regulation skills in the learning
process with MOOCs, both of them key in maintaining students throughout the course and
in obtaining positive learning outcomes.
Learning in MOOCs promotes self-regulated learning, which is mediated by personal and
contextual variables and involves…
Setting goals autonomously.
Organizing personal learning process.
Managing personal time efficiently.
Implementing learning strategies autonomously.
Implementing effective strategies for seeking help.
Having a good sense of self-efficacy.
The sense of self-efficacy and the type of learning strategies condition that the
students complete the course to the end.
Low levels of self-regulation relates to high dropout rates in MOOCs.
Why people decide to enrol in MOOCs?
Due to curiosity (new ways of learning, to try online and interactive
Due to entertainment.
To get knowledge about a specific topic.
To learn from recognized experts.
To fulfil personal goals.
To learn in a more flexible way.
To get a final certificate.
In short, we can say that the engagement level in a course depends on the original
purpose of the student. It can be:
Performance target students look for tangible results (e.g., to get a
final certificate, to get specific professional goals).
Mastery goal students seek to become experts in the field, which
means a long-term engagement.
Social goal the main purpose is to establish contact networks, to feel
part of a reference group,… so the implication in discussion forums will be
Motivation has an important role in individual performance and it is key to
prevent dropout in MOOCs. High levels of motivation correlates to high
levels of continuity in the course.
The elements of MOOCs` design, in both content and the incentive system,
contribute to an adequate learning experience. The structure, the content
(specially, its real interest to professional life) and the way of material is
organized must be considered.
Why people don’t complete a MOOC to the end?
Difficulties in managing the information overload.
Difficulties to keep pace with the speed of the lessons.
Comprehension problems with the contents of the course.
Low sense of learning support by teachers.
Lack of contact networks.
Which factors can help to prevent dropout in MOOCs?
A higher quality of education and learning materials.
The presence of renowned experts and competent professionals.
The possibility to exchange ideas and share experiences in discussion forums.
The learning flexibility of MOOCs.
The requirement of paying small taxes to enrol a MOOC.
The offer of MOOCs in Higher Education is growing due to the large number of advantages that this
type of course brings, like flexible and not expensive learning.
One of the greatest enemies to the MOOCs is the huge dropout rate that makes above 90% of
enrollers not to complete the course. In that sense, motivation and self-regulation skills in the
learning process can be considered the biggest protective factors to prevent dropout and enhance
individual performance in MOOCs.
Nevertheless, some studies encourage not to take the absence of dropout as the only parameter to
measure the learning success.
Learning in MOOCs has allowed us to illustrate two key competences to be developed in the digital
environment: the ability to self-regulate yourself and maintain motivation over time.
Both have to do with individual autonomy and empowerment, and they are transversal
competencies: self-efficacy and metacognition play a significant role in literacy instruction and
learning, as well as professional development.
Ahghar, G. (2012). Effect of problem-solving skills education on auto-regulation learning of high school students in Tehran. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 69, 688-694.
Alario-Hoyos, C., Estévez-Ayres, I., Pérez-Sanagustín, M., Delgado, C., & Férnandez-Panadero, C. (2017). Understanding Learners’Motivation and Learning Strategies in MOOCs.
International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3), 119-137.
Barak, M., Watted, A., & Haick, H. (2015). Motivation to learn in massive open online courses: Examining aspects of language and social engagement. Computers & Education, 94, 49-60.
Bulger, M., Bright, J., & Cobo, C. (2015). The real component of virtual learning: motivations for face-to-face MOOC meetings in developing and industrialised countries. Information,
Communication & Society, 18(10), 1200-1216. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2015.1061571
Castaño-Muñoz, J., Kreijns, K., Kalz, M., & Punie, Y. (2017). Does digital competence and occupational setting influence MOOC participation? Evidence from a cross-course survey. Journal
of Computing in Higher Education, 29, 28-46. doi: 10.1007/s12528-016-9123-z
Cesareni, D., Micale, F., Cosmelli, C., Fiore, F. P., & Nicolò, R. (2014). MOOCs e interazioni collaborative: l`esperienza in Sapienza. ECPS Journal, 10, 153-176. doi: 10.7358/ecps-2014-010-
De Barba, P. G., Kennedy, G. E., & Ainley, M. D. (2016). The role of students’ motivation and participation in predicting performance in a MOOC. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning,
32, 218-231. doi: 10.1111/jcal.12130
De Freitas, S. I., Morgan, J., & Gibson, D. (2015). Will MOOCs transform learning and teaching in higher education? Engagement and course retention in online learning provision. British
Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 455-471. doi:10.1111/bjet.12268
Dresel, M., Schmitz, B., Schober, B., Spiel, C., Ziegler, A., Engelschalk, T., … Steuer, G. (2015). Competencies for successful self-regulated learning in higher education: structural model
and indications drawn from expert interview. Studies in Higher Education, 40(3), 454-470. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1004236
Goradia, T., & Bugarcic, A. (2017). A social cognitive view of self-regulated learning within online environment. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 4, 5-6.
Greene, J. A., Oswald, C. A., & Pomerantz, J. (2015). Predictors of Retention and Achievement in a Massive Open Online Course. American Educational Research Journal, 52(5), 925-955.
Hew, K. F. (2016). Promoting engagement in online courses: What strategies can we learn from three highly rated MOOCS. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(2), 320-341.
Israel, M. J. (2015). Effectiveness of Integrating MOOCs in Traditional Classrooms for Undergraduate Students. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(5),
Jansen, D., Schuwer, R., Teixeira, A., & Aydin, C. H. (2015). Comparing MOOC Adoption Strategies in Europe: Results from the HOME Project Survey. International Review of Research in
Open and Distributed Learning, 16(6), 116-136.
Literat, I. (2015). Implications of massive open online courses for higher education: mitigating or reifying educational inequities? Higher Education Research & Development, 34(6), 1164-
1177. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2015.1024624
Littlejohn, A., Hood, N., Milligan, C., & Mustain, P. (2016). Learning in MOOCs: Motivations and self-regulated learning in MOOCs. Internet and Higher Education, 29, 40-48.
Liu, M., Kang, J., & McKelroy, E. (2015). Examining learners’ perspective of taking a MOOC: reasons, excitement, and perception of usefulness. Educational Media International, 52(2),
129-146. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2015.1053289
Loizzo, J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2016). MOOCocracy: the learning culture of massive open online courses. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(2), 1013-1032. doi:
Onah, D. F., & Sinclair, J. E. (2017). Assessing Self-Regulation of Learning Dimensions in a Stand-alone MOOC Platform. International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy, 1-17.
Pintrich, P. R. (1999). The role of motivation in promoting and sustaining self-regulated learning. International Journal of Educational Research, 31, 459-470.
Schmid, L., Manturukb, K., Simpkinsc, I., Goldwasserc, M., & Whitfiel, K. E. (2015). Fulfilling the promise: do MOOCs reach the educationally underserved? Educational Media
International, 52(2), 116-128. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2015.1053288
Schraw, G., Kauffman, D. F., & Lehman, S. (2002). Self-regulated learning theory. In L. Nadel (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science (pp. 1063–1073). London: Nature Publishing
Walton-Radford, A., Robles, J., Cataylo, S., Horn, L., Thornton, J., & Whitfield, K. (2014). The Employer Potential of MOOCs: A Mixed- Methods Study of Human Resource
Professionals’Thinking on MOOCs. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), 15(5), 1-25.
Zhang, J. (2016). Can MOOCs be interesting to students? An experimental investigation from regulatory focus perspective. Computers & Education, 95, 340-351.