Studying Learner Behavior in Online Courses With Free-Certificate Coupons: Results From Two Case Studies
The relationship between pricing and learning behavior is an important topic in research on massive open online courses (MOOCs). We report on two case studies where cohorts of learners were offered coupons for free certificates to explore how price reductions might influence behavior in MOOC-based online learning settings. In Case Study 1, we compare participation and certification rates between courses with and without free-certificate coupons. In the courses with a free-certificate track, participants signed up for the verified-certificate track at higher rates, and completion rates among verified students were higher than in the paid-certificate track courses. In Case Study 2, we compare learner behavior within the same courses by whether they received access to a free-certificate track. Access to free certificates was associated with lower certification rates, but overall, certification rates remained high, particularly among those who viewed the courses. These findings suggest that some incentives, other than simply the cost of paying for a verified-certificate track, may motivate learners to complete MOOCs.
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