Assuring learners from less-developed countries they belong and affirming their core values can help them succeed in massive open online courses (MOOCs), according to a study led by Stanford University.
The study found achievement rates in online courses vary greatly by geographical location, with learners living in countries low on the United Nations' Human Development Index less likely to complete the course.
The researchers see a psychological barrier contributing to the geographical gap in MOOCs. They collected data on 2,286 learners enrolled in computer science MOOCs, of whom 16% lived in less-developed countries. Learners were asked to complete an online activity before beginning the MOOC, with some learners randomly assigned a social belonging activity while others were asked to write about how taking the course affirms their most important values.
Both interventions had a significant effect on the performance of learners in less-developed countries, doubling their persistence and virtually eliminating the global achievement gap. The affirmation intervention raised completion rates for learners in less-developed countries from 17% to 41%.
"It is an impressive result, which suggests that social identity threat can be a barrier to performance in international learning contexts, even in online environments with little social interaction," says Stanford's Rene Kizilcec.
From Stanford News
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