Exploring Demographics and Students’ Motivation as Predictors of Completion of a Massive Open Online Course


  • Qing Zhang Virginia Tech
  • Fernanda Cesar Bonafini The Pennsylvania State University
  • Barbara B. Lockee Virginia Tech
  • Kathryn W. Jablokow The Pennsylvania State University
  • Xiaoyong Hu South China Normal University




MOOC completion, demographics, motivation, intention of completion, groups in MOOCs


This paper investigates the degree to which different variables affect the completion of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Data on those variables, such as age, gender, English proficiency, education level, and motivation for course enrollment were first collected through a pre-course survey. Next, course completion records were collected via the Coursera database. Finally, multiple binomial logistic regression models were used to identify factors related to MOOC completion. Although students were grouped according to their preferences, working in groups did not affect students’ likelihood for MOOC completion. Also, other variables such as age, the institution hosting the MOOC, academic program alignment with students’ needs, and students’ intention to complete the course all affected their probability of MOOC completion. This study contributes to the literature by indicating the factors that influence the probability of MOOC completion. Results show that older participants (age > 50 years old) have higher probability of completing the MOOC. Students’ MOOC completion also increases when the MOOC provides experiences that add to students’ current academic backgrounds and when they are hosted by institutions with a strong academic reputation. Based on these factors, this study contributes to research methods in MOOCs by proposing a model that is aligned with the most important factors predicting completion as recommended by the current MOOC literature. For the next phase of assigning learners to work in groups, findings from this study also suggest that MOOC instructors should provide assistance for group work and monitor students’ collaborative processes.

Author Biographies

Qing Zhang, Virginia Tech

PhD Candidate in Instructional Design and Technology

Fernanda Cesar Bonafini, The Pennsylvania State University

Fernanda Bonafini earned a Masters degree in mathematics education from São Paulo State University and a Masters degree in Applied Statistics from Penn State University. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (Mathematics Education) at Penn State University. She studies Massive Open Online Courses for teachers, online professional development for teachers, and teaching and learning with technology in both face-to-face and online environments.

Barbara B. Lockee, Virginia Tech

Professor, Instructional Design & Technology 

Kathryn W. Jablokow, The Pennsylvania State University

Professor of Engineering Design and Mechanical Engineering

Xiaoyong Hu, South China Normal University

Professor and Director of Educational Technology Department, 

School of Education Information Technology 



How to Cite

Zhang, Q., Bonafini, F. C., Lockee, B. B., Jablokow, K. W., & Hu, X. (2019). Exploring Demographics and Students’ Motivation as Predictors of Completion of a Massive Open Online Course. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i2.3730



Research Articles