Anywhere and anytime? An analysis of the use of mobile devices in MOOCs
Paper i proceeding, 2017

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have spread tremendously over the past years and an increasing amount of universities and companies are joining MOOC repositories to provide global access to their courses. A promise of MOOCs is to enable people to learn at all times and anywhere. It remains to be seen whether this promise will be fulfilled since so far, MOOCs appear to have mostly benefited well-educated residents of developed countries. The emergence of MOOCs is paralleled with the growing impact of mobile learning on the contemporary educational discourse. Mobile computing devices are expected to facilitate learning as they allow more flexible and wider access to content, can provide highly individualised and situated learning activities and feedback. They also connect well with other technological innovations with a profound impact on education in the knowledge age such as social media. While all large MOOC repositories started as websites that function optimally on desktop computers and laptops, it does therefore not surprise that edX and Coursera nowadays provide access to their platforms via mobile applications as well. Initially, the apps enabled learners mainly to watch course videos via mobile phones and tablets, but over time, more interactive components were added to the mobile app's functionality. Both MOOCs and mobile learning present opportunities, but also challenges that educational research can help addressing. Existing research on mobile learning focusses mainly on effectiveness and mobile learning system design with surveys and experiments as the primary research methods. Surprisingly, no research has studied at the usage of mobile devices for MOOC learning yet. This paper therefore presents the first study to close this gap. We examine the use of mobile computing devices and its effects on learning in four MOOCs. We analyse, how learners accessed and watched video lectures of the MOOCs and whether there are differences between browser and mobile application users. The MOOCs were produced by Chalmers University of Technology, hosted on the edX platform and had several thousands of learners enrolled. The MOOCs covered very a broad range of themes on introductory, intermediate and advanced level. The primary method of data collection was the use of click-stream and performance data provided by the edX analytics platform and the edX data pipeline. The results show that only about 12% of all learners accessed course content via mobile devices. They tended to be younger compared to exclusive browser users and most successful if they used both the mobile application and the browser for completing the course. There are some geographical surprises in behaviour patterns. Most notably, the mobile use in developing countries for MOOC learning did not exceed the global average and the percentage of mobile learners in Europe was particularly low despite its mobile infrastructure. The article finishes with a discussion of the implications for the further development and use of MOOCs and mobile devices as global educational resource.

Massive Open Online Course




mobile learning


Christian Stöhr

Chalmers, Tillämpad informationsteknologi, Avdelningen för ingenjörsutbildningsvetenskap (EER)

Proceedings of INTED2017 Conference

2340-1079 (ISSN)

Vol. 11 8933-8943
978-84-617-8491-2 (ISBN)


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