“I was doing these classes mainly during the evening when I was coming back home or most of the time on the weekends when I had most of my spare time. I think in the classes that I completed, there was a sense of easy topics compared to the other ones. As such, they were necessary skills compared to the other ones. I could see myself growing fast in it because I could go from 0 to 100 in few hours of learning. In this case, the coursers that I completed were not so extraordinarily time-consuming. As such, I was spending no more than 3 or 4 hours per week. The homework and the projects that I was doing were easy and fascinating. For instance, in the python one, every week you had to create some programs, video games like space invaders, which are also kind of fun. Indeed, it was cool to see the output of the results.”
The above quotation was taken from the interview made to Francesco, and it is an interesting example since it explained his personal experience when he completed a course. Additionally, it makes it possible to understand how the main categories represented in the conceptual model affected his motivation while he was enrolled. One of the main advantages in the context of Coursera is that users can choose when to study. This enables them to have higher flexibility with regard to how they structure their work. This characteristic was also found in the research of Liu et al. (2015) where users indicated that one of the advantages of the platform was its flexibility.
Users feel gratified when they realize how they can progress during their experience. Specifically, users are more motivated to continue the path of learning when they can understand the content of the course and master the skills learned through their experience. As discussed at the beginning of this section, users have different reasons and motivations for enrolling in a course. In this regard, they are not only triggered by their curiosity to learn something new and related to their academic or work background but also by their hobbies and interests. These results evidence that users access the content mostly for their personal interests as opposed to some extrinsic factors. Specifically, users get the content to have a wider understanding in the areas that are more relevant to them. Thus, they are more intrinsically motivated to enrol in a course and probably complete it. In my perspective, these results make sense because, first, most of the MOOC learners already have a degree- either bachelor or master, and some of them already have a job; therefore, they access Coursera to either add or explore new skills. As such, the primary interest and motivation for Coursera learners are to master new skills and add them to their toolbox that they use at work or in their personal lives. From this assumption, we can find a correlation between what users do in Coursera and what the CEO stated regarding the difference between learning in Coursera and traditional universities. He said that if anyone intended to master any content, Coursera was a great tool. Additionally, if they wanted to explore the forming relationships that will be very critical for them, for their entire lives and learn the soft skills and interpersonal competencies and skills of leadership and teamwork that they required in life, there was nothing like these great universities (Bill Snyder, 2014). These results also find consistency in other study findings like Kop and Fourier (2011) where they stated that users who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in the course and be participants that are more active.
In a study conducted by Yale University, however, Wang et al. (2015) found that there are no substantial differences in mastery goal orientations between completer and non-completer users. From this assumption, it is reasonable to believe that while a user is enrolled in a course, his/her initial motivations and goals may be affected by any changes during his/her learning path. Indeed, one of the reasons why users drop out is because they fulfil their needs before completing the course. Notably, Users may enrol to a course and focus only on one part of the compendium, which they believe, is more valuable to their needs. Specifically, a user may be motivated to master further skills, but he/she might be interested only to follow one lesson of the entire course without any reason to complete the assignments. As such, it is rational to assume that both completers and non-completer learners are motivated to master new skills albeit having different priorities in what they need to learn. The priorities of each user may be based on how they perceive the knowledge that they acquire while they are enrolled in a course. In specific, it is important that some coursers are more relevant for users to learn in a particular range of time. Additionally, the skills that a user wants to learn have a different priority about the tasks that he/she is doing that moment. For example, while Agne was explaining the reasons why she completed the course in English grammar, she stated that it was easy and because at that moment, she found it useful to complement those skills that matched with her voluntary job. She stated “Effective writer one was easier to complete. The assignments were very clear; you did not need to do a lot of background work, and it was most of about the writing itself. At that moment, I was doing a lot of writing also from my volunteering, as such; it was complementing my actual work”. The skills that she wanted to learn were complementary to her task that she was involved in at that moment. This aspect also makes the course more relevant to the user and, therefore, more critical. The relevance of the course and the value of the skills that a user wants to acquire are based on the outcome.
It is critical to take into consideration time perceived from learning because most of the users accesses Coursera to fulfil short-term goals and complement their skills that they think are more relevant to a particular range of time. If users perceive that the time taken to acquire the knowledge is too long, or the effort requested to complete the course is not contingent on the outcome, then they will be less motivated.
It is also reasonable to make a consideration about the value of the certificates that Coursera offers and how users perceive the value of them. From the results obtained in the previous chapter users, they view the certificate as useless. Since most of the users already possess a degree, either bachelor’s or master’s, and some of them have even more advanced degrees, they have stated that they do not aim to add further levels to their background, but they are more focused to acquire new skills and knowledge. Moreover, it is possible to follow coursers free, and this means that most of Coursera learners do not have any incentive to buy a certificate. Indeed, while discussing with the participants about the reasons why they do not purchase a certificate, they were referring their grounds in job interviews and the perspectives of the employers. Specifically, those taking part explained that in their interview experiences, firstly, companies do not know what Coursera is and secondly, businesses are interested in hiring people that have the right skills to do a task; they do not care if a possible candidate possesses a certificate. Moreover, users stated that the skills learned through a courser were added to their CV, and, therefore, they did not have any reason to buy a certificate.
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