|Ph.D Student||Watted Abeer|
|Subject||Project-Based MOOC in Nanotechnology and Nanosensors:|
Examining Motivation to Learn and Knowledge
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Miriam Barak|
|Full Thesis text|
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are web-based learning environments in which participants, worldwide, can acquire knowledge without any commitment or prior requirements. Most MOOCs include short segments of video lectures arranged according to the course topics, and the assessment method is based on closed-ended assignments. Only few MOOCs are designed for project-based learning (PBL), and there is yet little empirical evidence regarding the way in which PBL can be implemented in science and engineering MOOCs. Therefore, the study's goal was threefold. First, to examine the academic students’ views about MOOC as a learning environment. Second, to understand what motivates scientists and engineers to participate in a PBL MOOC. Third, to examine participants learning outcomes in terms of knowledge gain.
The research included two stages: a preliminary study and a main study. The 'mixed methods' design was employed, in which both quantitative and qualitative approaches are applied for data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The preliminary study was conducted as a qualitative study, among STEM students from two academic institutions (N = 71). The main study was conducted in the setting of a MOOC in Nanotechnology and Nanosensors, developed in two versions: English and Arabic (N = 726). The quantitative approach followed the pretest posttest design, in which data was collected via online questionnaires. The qualitative approach included a content analysis study of digital documents.
The findings of the preliminary study indicated that learning a MOOC was a positive experience for the academic students. A high quality MOOC was identified by four design principles: clarity of explanations, visualization of abstract concepts, good support and communication, and varied assignments. The main study’s findings identified a similar motivation profile among the English and Arabic MOOCers, even though they differed in language and cultural diversity. In both groups, the MOOC completers indicated high intrinsic motivation and self-determination. When examining the expected benefits of MOOC completers, analysis of data, identified three motivational themes: career, personal, and educational benefits. All the completers were motivated by general interest; however, the university-affiliated students were oriented toward educational benefits while the general participants were oriented toward career benefits.
The findings indicated a significant association between the final grades, gained knowledge, and motivation. Participants’ knowledge gain was found to be predicted by both the initial and final motivation.
Guided by the sociocultural and the social cognitive theories, this study adds to the body of knowledge on motivation to learn and knowledge gain of MOOC learners in science and engineering. The research contribution includes the development of a model for project-based MOOCs and the generation of valid and reliable tools for examining knowledge and motivation to learn nanotechnology.