MOOC was started with the aim of making “learning” open to all via a digital platform. There are quite a few studies which are conducted to know the demography of learners who enroll for MOOC. But the aim of most of such research is limited to find out the percentage of learners in each category. For instance, a study from Stanford University’s Learning Analytics group described that there are four types of students based on their study:

  • auditors, who watched video throughout the course, but took few quizzes or exams
  • completers, who viewed most lectures and took part in most assessments
  • disengaged learners, who quickly dropped the course and
  • sampling learners, who might only occasionally watch lectures



Auditing Completing Disengaging


High school


27% 29%




8% 12%




5% 6%


(Source: Wikipedia)

Though there are many such studies and researches that have been conducted to identify the type of learners who take up the course, most of these identification is mainly based on post survey results of specific surveys conducted by the organisations or their group. What we need to think is go beyond the survey results to identify the type of learners in MOOC. One such effort is made here. I have identified 10 types of MOOC takers and category is named suitably. Below are the types of learners:

1. New learners: These are the learners who are completely new to MOOC / online courses.

new learners

2. New topic learners: Learners who look for specific course mainly to learn something new (who do not know anything about the topic). For example, “Introduction to Photography” or “Introduction to Programming”.

new topic learners

These learners may have three main motives to take up such course –

  • to learn something new just in order to have knowledge/ skills in addition to the different kind of skills/ knowledge they already have
  • the new knowledge/ skill is demanded at their workplace (for instance, “Finance for Non-finance managers”)
  • to get deeper into the subject in future (long term objective) so as to take it as profession or serious hobby

3. Students: School and college students who wants to learn more about a topic. These learners may also have another motive of having additional certificate which can act as add-on to their academic program. These learners also have the desire to expand their horizon on a particular topic.


4. Upgraders: These learners are mostly employed people who look to upgrade their skills. For instance, an employee of retail store may have experience in managing retail store, but may want to learn some critical aspects of successful retail management. Such learners look for courses like “Managing retail stores”. Such learners again have two motives:

a. The course can help them to perform better at their workplace
b. The course can help them to get promotion at their workplace


5. Job seekers: Learners who want to add certificate(s) to get some weightage to their resume so that the chances of getting a job becomes more. For instance, course on “Instructional designing” or a course on “C++”.


6. Obsessed learners: These are learners who are obsessed about learning courses either to learn something new or to get a more insight on a particular subject.


7. Academicians: Many research have found that a large proportion of MOOC takes are teachers, lecturers, professor and other academicians who enroll to get different perspectives about a subject so that they can use the learnings to teach in their classrooms.


8. Researchers: Some proportion of learners include researchers who wants to conduct a study about a particular topic. For instance, PhD students or individual researchers may want to get various views about a particular topic like “cloud computing” or “big data” or “analytics”. These learners aim to get deeper understanding about a subject.


9. Explorers: These are the learners who just want to explore various courses available so that they pick up a particular course whenever they come across something which interests them the most.


10. Home makers and retired people: These are the learners who would like to utilize the free time effectively.



Though an effort is made here to categorize different learners, sometimes there might be an overlap. For instance, home makers can be explorers too. I also feel that time period should be considered as well to justify the overlapping. For example, job seekers may become ‘upgraders’ or ‘home makers’ soon.

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