Volume 13, Number 1, Spring 2014

EDITORS NOTE: For the last article in this issue, we are pleased to present a reprint of a past JIOL article that has been among the most viewed articles and was originally published in volume 4, Issue 2 of the Journal of Interactive Online Learning. The manuscript is presented in its original form.

Characteristics of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): A Research Review, 2009-2012

Jolie Kennedy
The University of Minnesota


This review of research explores characteristics associated with massive open online courses (MOOCs). Three key characteristics are revealed: varied definitions of openness, barriers to persistence, and a distinct structure that takes the form as one of two pedagogical approaches. The concept of openness shifts among different MOOCs, models, researchers, and facilitators. The high dropout rates show that the barriers to learning are a significant challenge. Research has focused on engagement, motivation, and presence to mitigate risks of learner isolation. The pedagogical structure of the connectivist MOOC model (cMOOC) incorporates a social, distributed, networked approach and significant learner autonomy that is geared towards adult lifelong learners interested in personal or professional development. This connectivist approach relates to situated and social learning theories such as social constructivism (Kop, 2011). By contrast, the design of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence (AI) model (xMOOC) uses conventional directed instruction in the context of formal postsecondary educational institutions. This traditional pedagogical approach is categorized as cognitive-behaviorist (Rodriguez, 2012). These two distinct MOOC models attract different audiences, use different learning approaches, and employ different teaching methods. The purpose of this review is to synthesize the research describing the phenomenon of MOOCs in informal and postsecondary online learning.

Mathematics Achievement: Traditional instruction and technology-assisted course delivery methods

Robert Vilardi
Troy University

Margaret L. Rice
The University of Alabama


The purpose of this study was to analyze technology-assisted course delivery methods to determine their overall effectiveness as it pertains to mathematics courses. This study analyzed both current and historical data in the areas of achievement, retention, and grade distribution for mathematics classes. The study included 14,562 students enrolled in Pre-Calculus Algebra at a Southeastern University. Significant differences were found in student achievement as determined by course grade point average with students in the traditional course scoring higher in average course grade point average. Students in the traditional courses also had a significantly higher number of A’s and a significantly lower number of F’s in the grade distribution. There was no significant difference in the overall retention rate between the 18-week traditional courses and the technology-assisted courses, but there was a significant difference between the 9-week traditional and the technology-assisted courses. In general, the students enrolled in the technology-assisted courses did not perform at the same level as the students in the traditional setting.

Instructional Design Strategies for Intensive Online Courses: An Objectivist-Constructivist Blended Approach

Sue-Jen Chen
University of North Carolina Wilmington


Due to the time constraints of intensive online courses, instructional design strategies should be modified in order to retain the quality of learning without reducing the quantity of the course content. This paper presents how a blended approach combining objectivist and constructivist instructional strategies was used in the design of an intensive summer online course in the context of a support-based online learning environment. The implementation results revealed that students had a positive learning experience in the course and were highly satisfied with their learning outcomes.

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