Coursera and the Future of MOOCs (2015-2016)

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are worldwide and open to all. They have the potential to revolutionize education. But who actually uses them and how?

This project explored the current state and future of online education through mixed-methods research. In 2014, Professors Canelas and Çetinkaya-Rundel worked with Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology to develop and launch two Coursera courses in introductory chemistry and statistics, developing modules and assessments, investigating alternative means of learning such as online labs and writing assignments, and deploying surveys. Since that time, the undergraduates and graduate students on the related Bass Connections team who served as community TAs for the courses have embarked on projects such as statistical analysis of course data, development of new course content, investigation of the impact of motivational design strategies, and exploration of student experiences through surveys and interviews.

Analysis of one set of interviews found that students from 174 countries enrolled in the chemistry course (25% from emerging economies). Another similar set of participants enrolled in a statistics course. All were invited to respond to a separate demographic survey that had an item about spoken English proficiency, and using that information the team selected interview participants via stratified sampling.

Africa has fewest number of Coursera users. One team member led a mixed-methods research project exploring the experiences of African women taking MOOCs through the lenses of two disciplines: education research and women’s studies. Another team member focused on people who began college but left before receiving a degree.


Fall 2015 – Spring 2016

Team Outcomes

Vertically-integrated, Interdisciplinary Teams for MOOC Research (poster by Dorian A. Canelas and Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel)

Educational Background, Interests, and Aspirations of College Stop-outs and Drop-outs in MOOCs (poster by Keara Darragh, Dorian Canelas, Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel)

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) through the Lens of Women Living in Africa (poster by Tyler Ann Johnson, Dorian Canelas, Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel)

EHDx Talks (presentation by Keara Darragh and Michael Schahfer at the Nasher Museum of Art, April 13, 2016)

The Bass Connections model has been very effective for investigating MOOCs. A multidisciplinary approach is really important for these platforms. —Michael Schahfer

See earlier related team, Coursera and the Future of Free Massive Open Online Courses (2014-2015).

Team Leaders

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

/graduate Team Members

  • Pamela Mosley, Chemistry-PHD
  • Keshav Somasekhar, Master of Engineering Mgmt-MEG

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Maria Carvajal, Chemistry (AB)
  • Keara Darragh, Biophysics (BS)
  • Jesse Hu, Computer Science (BS)
  • Tyler Johnson, Women's Studies (AB)
  • Michael Schahfer, Public Policy Studies (AB), History (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Kun Li, Duke Libraries - Center for Instructional Technology