Broadening Participation in Online STEM Education (2016-2017)

Fifteen percent of the world’s population experiences some form of disability. People with significant disabilities often struggle with limited opportunities for adequate education, lower rates of employment and a resulting lower socioeconomic status. Online learning promises to expand access to education and subsequent employment to persons with disabilities in all areas of higher education, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). However, literature suggests that this group of learners continues to experience barriers to participation in online learning.

This Bass Connections project grew out of a previous one, Coursera and the Future of MOOCs. Partnering with researchers at Stanford and the University of Michigan, this project investigated the use of massive open online courses by persons who identify as having a disability and exploring benefits and barriers experienced by learners.

Team members learned about the process for research with human subjects and built practical skills in quantitative and qualitative research methods. Building on this background, one team member conducted a study to determine whether there are differences in the motivations behind taking an online Coursera course if the participant is a student, employed or unemployed. Surveys were emailed to the participants of 14 Coursera courses, asking questions about student/employment status, how the course tied in with their education and motivation for enrolling. Survey data were stratified into three categories: student, working, not working.

Another team member looked at course fees and investigated the funding of MOOCs in Spring 2017 to consider the economic viability of MOOCs moving forward. From a list of 86 MOOC platforms meeting the study criteria. Generally, MOOC providers generated income by charging a flat fee for courses, charging for certificates of accomplishment and/or completion, or charging on a subscription basis for access to either a single course or the entire site. Of the 30 platforms charging customers in some form, 17 used flat fees for courses, 15 charged for certificates, and 7 used subscriptions (some platforms used a combination of fees). Some providers did not charge for anything relating to open courses.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Jorgianne Robinson, Kim R. Manturuk, Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel, Dorian A. Canelas. “Analysis of Adult Learner Sense of Community in Online Classes.” 2018. Digital Universities: International Best Practices and Applications 5(1-2):163-178.

Exploring the Motivations behind MOOC Enrollment (Erin Locey, Dorian Canelas)

Broadening Participation in Online Learning: Business Perspective of MOOC Providers (Alice Silberstein, Dorian Canelas)

Broadening Participation in Online STEM Education (presentation by Alice Silberstein and Erin Locey, EHDx Talks, April 19, 2017)

Kun Li and Kim Manturuk. 2017. “Pathways for Affective Learning in Massive Open Online Courses.” EDUCAUSE Review.


Broadening Participation in Online STEM Education

Four Views of Bass Connections at Duke


Erin Locey

We are each writing our own published research paper, so I’ve had to go through the process of getting my IRB protocol approved and writing survey questions. Not a lot of people come out of Duke with published papers that they’re the primary author on. I feel like that’s a really great thing that this team offered me. –Erin Locey

This Team in the News

“Bass Connections Equals Opportunity:” Four Undergraduates Share Their Perspectives

Duke Research Finds MOOCs Offer Learners Emotional Growth, Not Just Facts

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See earlier related team, Coursera and the Future of MOOCs (2015-2016).

Team Leaders

  • Dorian Canelas, Arts & Sciences-Chemistry
  • Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, Arts & Sciences-Statistical Science

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Dalton George, Interdept Neurosci/Music (BS)
  • Tyler Johnson, Women's Studies (AB)
  • Erin Locey, Evolutionary Anthropology (BS)
  • Alice Silberstein, Biomedical Engineering (BSE)
  • Radhika Srivastava, Psychology (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Benjamin Cooke, Arts & Sciences-Mathematics
  • Kun Li, Duke Libraries - Center for Instructional Technology
  • Kimberly Manturuk, Duke Libraries
  • Jorgianne Robinson, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience