How a MOOC can effectively facilitate student transitions to an online distance postgraduate programme

  • Eva Kubincová
  • Vicki H.M. Dale
  • John Kerr The University of Glasgow
Keywords: MOOCs, online learning, student transitions, teaching presence, learning design


A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was developed to help promote awareness of, and support student transitions into, a fully online distance, credit-bearing postgraduate certificate (PGCert). A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was undertaken with participants on the PGCert to investigate learner experiences of both the MOOC and PGCert, and to establish the extent to which the MOOC supported learners’ transitions into the PGCert in terms of their (1) foundation knowledge, (2) study skills, (3) digital literacies, (4) readiness for self-directed learning, and to determine whether additional efforts could have been directed to more effectively support student transitions. Findings revealed that the MOOC informed participants’ decision to undertake the fully online PGCert, and that this was due to the effective learning design and a strong teacher presence throughout. The participants already possessed some background knowledge and a number of essential learning skills (though not uniformly), questioning assumptions around MOOCs as an aid to widening participation in higher education; however, the MOOC helped to enhance and unify these. Not surprisingly, there were some challenges encountered on entering online postgraduate study that the MOOC design could not anticipate or solve; therefore, we recommend that online learners are appropriately supported throughout their studies. This work has implications in terms of how MOOCs may help facilitate student transitions into other fully online, credit-bearing programmes of study.

Published: 20 September 2018

Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2018, 26: 2055 -



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Author Biographies

Vicki H.M. Dale

Senior Academic and Digital Development Adviser

LEADS - Learning Enhancement and Academic Developemnt Service)

John Kerr, The University of Glasgow

Learning Innovation Officer
College of Social Sciences
The University of Glasgow 

How to Cite
Kubincová E., Dale V. H., & Kerr J. (2018). How a MOOC can effectively facilitate student transitions to an online distance postgraduate programme. Research in Learning Technology, 26.
Original Research Articles