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Open AccessArticle

MOOC Learners’ Engagement with Two Variants of Virtual Patients: A Randomised Trial

Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, (LIME) Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 247964, Singapore
Department of Bioinformatics and Telemedicine, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Kopernika 7e, 31-034 Kraków, Poland
Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology (CLINTEC), 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden
Department of Education, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Educ. Sci. 2018, 8(2), 44;
Received: 6 March 2018 / Revised: 26 March 2018 / Accepted: 27 March 2018 / Published: 29 March 2018
Introduction: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are an increasingly popular form of education in health professional education. VPs have been introduced in MOOCs to increase interactivity. There is a lack of research in understanding the reasons behind high dropout rates in MOOCs. We explored how learners interact with VPs and compared the significance of different VP designs on dropout rates. Methods: RCT of 378 participants split into two groups to interact with two VPs using different design: branching and linear. Data on node progression and VP attempts was analysed using descriptive and quantitative analysis. Results: Eight groups of learner interaction patterns were identified. The majority of learners completed the VP in a linear path in one attempt. A significant number either completed the case in a loop path in one attempt, completed in a linear path in multiple attempts or dropped out without attempting the case. VP design has a significant effect on dropout rates of learners. There is a higher dropout rate from a branched VP compared to linear VP. Discussion: Prior research showed that branched VPs are more engaging and promote greater learning compared to linear VPs. However, our results indicate that branched VPs had greater dropout compared to VPs that require less time to be solved. Conclusions: We conclude that branching had a negative effect on completion of the VP activity in the MOOC. Moreover, we believe that more complex VPs require more effort on task and this might not be a design that facilitates the interaction in a MOOC audience, where the participants might wish to acquire the basic medical knowledge offered by the course. View Full-Text
Keywords: virtual patients; Massive Open Online Courses; eLearning virtual patients; Massive Open Online Courses; eLearning
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MDPI and ACS Style

Stathakarou, N.; Scully, M.L.; Kononowicz, A.A.; Henningsohn, L.; Zary, N.; McGrath, C. MOOC Learners’ Engagement with Two Variants of Virtual Patients: A Randomised Trial. Educ. Sci. 2018, 8, 44.

AMA Style

Stathakarou N, Scully ML, Kononowicz AA, Henningsohn L, Zary N, McGrath C. MOOC Learners’ Engagement with Two Variants of Virtual Patients: A Randomised Trial. Education Sciences. 2018; 8(2):44.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Stathakarou, Natalia; Scully, Marcel L.; Kononowicz, Andrzej A.; Henningsohn, Lars; Zary, Nabil; McGrath, Cormac. 2018. "MOOC Learners’ Engagement with Two Variants of Virtual Patients: A Randomised Trial" Educ. Sci. 8, no. 2: 44.

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