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Elderly learners and Massive Open Online Courses: a review

Liyanagunawardena, T. R. and Williams, S. A. (2016) Elderly learners and Massive Open Online Courses: a review. Interactive Journal of Medical Research, 5 (1). e1. ISSN 1929-073X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.2196/ijmr.4937

Abstract/Summary

Background: Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become commonplace in the e-learning landscape. Thousands of elderly learners are participating in courses offered by various institutions on a multitude of platforms in many different languages. However, there is very little research into understanding elderly learners in MOOCs. Objective: We aim to show that a considerable proportion of elderly learners are participating in MOOCs and that there is a lack of research in this area. We hope this assertion of the wide gap in research on elderly learners in MOOCs will pave the way for more research in this area. Methods: Pre-course survey data for 10 University of Reading courses on the FutureLearn platform were analyzed to show the level of participation of elderly learners in MOOCs. Two MOOC aggregator sites (Class Central and MOOC List) were consulted to gather data on MOOC offerings that include topics relating to aging. In parallel, a selected set of MOOC platform catalogues, along with a recently published review on health and medicine-related MOOCs, were searched to find courses relating to aging. A systematic literature search was then employed to identify research articles on elderly learners in MOOCs. Results: The 10 courses reviewed had a considerable proportion of elderly learners participating in them. For the over-66 age group, this varied from 0.5% (on the course “Managing people”) to 16.3% (on the course “Our changing climate”), while for the over-56 age group it ranged from 3.0% (on “A beginners guide to writing in English”) to 39.5% (on “Heart health”). Only six MOOCs were found to include topics related to aging: three were on the Coursera platform, two on the FutureLearn platform, and one on the Open2Study platform. Just three scholarly articles relating to MOOCs and elderly learners were retrieved from the literature search. Conclusions: This review presents evidence to suggest that elderly learners are already participating in MOOCs. Despite this, there has been very little research into their engagement with MOOCs. Similarly, there has been little research into exploiting the scope of MOOCs for delivering topics that would be of interest to elderly learners. We believe there is potential to use MOOCs as a way of tackling the issue of loneliness among older adults by engaging them as either resource personnel or learners.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science
ID Code:54611
Publisher:JMIR Publications

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