Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Dr. Anton Puvirajah


Extended massive open online courses (xMOOCs), which follow traditional university learning models, have become a popular platform for structured learning over the past few years. Despite this popularity, xMOOCs are generally poorly designed, which has caused dramatic drop-out rates; therefore, they require extensive revision using instructional design strategies and principles. Hence, the purpose of this study is to conduct a systematic review of empirical studies that present best practices in the instructional design of xMOOCs and inductively identify effective instructional principles with the aim of improving the effectiveness of xMOOC instruction. We used the Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome, and Study Design (PICOS) framework as a guide to design our research question, we followed the PRISMA framework to conduct a robust systematic review through Covidence, and we finalized 16 related articles to be included in this study. There are four main findings: 1) this study explores effective xMOOC instruction-related research design methods and approaches and will provide future researchers deep insight into conducting empirical research on xMOOC instructional design; 2) this study provides insight into xMOOC participants and intervention characteristics for future researchers and instructors to understand the most common course design patterns and participant features; 3) this study identifies xMOOC typical instructional design strategies to promote the understanding of the best practices for designing high-quality xMOOCs; and 4) instructional design principles are inductively extracted from instructional best practices to provide researchers, policymakers, instructors and xMOOC platform providers with deep insights for promoting effective teaching and learning as well as for offering recommendations for future designers to avoid design drawbacks and promote design strengths.

Summary for Lay Audience

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are now widely used, and their free and open nature attracts students from all over the world, but as the popularity of the courses increases, more and more problems arise, such as high dropout rates and low quality. In order to find ways to improve the quality of the courses and how to do so, this study extracts specific instructional strategies and principles from existing articles that are based on empirical evidence. From the perspective of the problems analyzed and solved, more implications of the MOOCs are explored, which provide great guidance for the design of future MOOC revisions.