MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012


  • Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena University of Reading
  • Andrew Alexandar Adams Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan
  • Shirley Ann Williams University of Reading



MOOC, Massively Open Online Course, Systematic Review, Connectivism


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a recent addition to the range of online learning options. Since 2008, MOOCs have been run by a variety of public and elite universities, especially in North America. Many academics have taken interest in MOOCs recognising the potential to deliver education around the globe on an unprecedented scale; some of these academics are taking a research-oriented perspective and academic papers describing their research are starting to appear in the traditional media of peer reviewed publications. This paper presents a systematic review of the published MOOC literature (2008-2012): Forty-five peer reviewed papers are identified through journals, database searches, searching the Web, and chaining from known sources to form the base for this review. We believe this is the first effort to systematically review literature relating to MOOCs, a fairly recent but massively popular phenomenon with a global reach. The review categorises the literature into eight different areas of interest, introductory, concept, case studies, educational theory, technology, participant focussed, provider focussed, and other, while also providing quantitative analysis of publications according to publication type, year of publication, and contributors. Future research directions guided by gaps in the literature are explored.

Author Biographies

Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena, University of Reading

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, OdinLab, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, UK.

Andrew Alexandar Adams, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan

Professor at Graduate School of Business Administration,  and
Deputy Director of the Centre for Business Information Ethics
Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan

Shirley Ann Williams, University of Reading

Professor of Learning TechnologiesNational Teaching FellowSchool of Systems EngineeringUniversity of Reading



How to Cite

Liyanagunawardena, T. R., Adams, A. A., & Williams, S. A. (2013). MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(3), 202–227.



Research Articles