Deadlines and MOOCs: How Do Students Behave in MOOCs with and without Deadlines

Petri Ihantola, Ilenia Fronza, Tommi Mikkonen, Miska Noponen, Arto Hellas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Online education can be delivered in many ways. For example, some MOOCs let students to proceed with their own pace, while others rely on strict schedules. Although the variety of how MOOCs can be organized is generally
well understood, less is known about how the different ways of organizing MOOCs affect retention. In this work, we compare self-paced and fixed-schedule MOOCs in terms of retention and work-load. Using data from over 8.000 students participating in two versions of a massive open online course in programming, we observe that drop-out rates at the beginning of the courses are greater than towards the end of the courses, with self-paced
MOOC being more extreme in this respect. Mostly because of different starts, the fixed-schedule course has a better overall retention rate (45%) than its self-paced counterpart (13%). We hypothesize that students initial investment of time and effort contributes to their persistence in their course, meaning that they do not want to let their initial investment go to waste. At the same time, in both self-paced and fixed-schedule MOOCs, there are students who receive almost full points from one week but fail to continue to the next week. This suggests that the issue of dropouts in MOOCs may also be related to participants struggling to take up new tasks or schedule their work over a longer time period. Our results support scheduling student activities in open
online courses and opens up new research directions in engaging students in self-paced courses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2020 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-7281-8961-1
ISBN (Print)978-1-7281-8962-8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventFrontiers in Education Conference - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: 21 Oct 202024 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameIEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)
ISSN (Print)1539-4565
ISSN (Electronic)2377-634X


ConferenceFrontiers in Education Conference
Abbreviated titleFIE
Internet address


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