Exploring the Influence of Countries’ Economic Conditions on Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Participation: A Study of 3.5 Million MITx Learners





massive open online courses, geographic region, country's income level, distance education, online learning


It is well known that there are disparities in access to education around the world, with developed countries generally having better educational resources and opportunities compared to developing countries. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been proposed as a way to bridge this gap by providing free or low-cost online education to anyone with an Internet connection. This study aimed to better understand the effects of location, both country and region, on the use of MOOCs, using data from 3.5 million learners who registered for MOOCs offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The data set provided a broad picture of how MOOCs are being used around the globe. The results of the study indicated significant differences in the use of MOOCs among students from different countries and their corresponding economic levels. In order to address these differences and improve access to education through MOOCs, the study suggested several actions that could be taken. These include providing better infrastructure and support for MOOC learners in developing countries, increasing awareness of and access to MOOCs in these regions, and working to improve the quality and relevance of MOOC offerings. Overall, the study highlighted the potential of MOOCs to bridge the educational gap between developed and developing countries, but also emphasized the need for continued efforts to remove barriers and improve access to these resources.

Author Biographies

Nergiz Ercil Cagiltay, Atilim University

Nergiz Ercil Cagiltay is a professor at the department of software engineering, Atilim University.  She received an M.S. degree in computer engineering and a Ph.D. degree in instructional technology from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. She worked at Indiana University for 3 years. Her research interests include information systems, immersive technologies, and technology-enhanced instructional systems.

Sacip Toker, Atilim University

Sacip Toker received the B.S. degree in computer education and the M.S. degree in educational sciences from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, in 2001 and 2004, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in instructional technology from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, in 2012. He was a researcher with Capital Analytics, Dunham, NC, between 2011 and 2012. His works appeared in a number of professional journals and books.

Kursat Cagiltay, Sabanci University, Azerbaijan State University of Economics

Kursat Cagiltay is a professor of the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences at the Sabancı University. He earned his BS in Mathematics and MS in Computer Engineering from Middle East Technical University. He holds a double PhD in Cognitive Science and Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University.


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How to Cite

Cagiltay, N. E., Toker, S., & Cagiltay, K. (2023). Exploring the Influence of Countries’ Economic Conditions on Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Participation: A Study of 3.5 Million MITx Learners. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(2), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v24i2.7123



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