Taking Away Excuses to Quit: The Role of Supports in Completion and Learning in Online Professional Development for Teachers

Sara Rutherford-Quach, Karen Thompson, Claudia Rodriguez-Mojica, Diego Román


Online courses, particularly in the massive open online course (MOOC) format, have been lauded for their potential to democratize access to educational opportunities but criticized for their markedly low completion rates. Yet educators continue to enroll in online courses, including MOOCs, in high numbers. For teachers at under-resourced schools, free online courses may be the only professional development option. It thus remains important to understand whether online courses, in their various formats, can serve as vehicles to support teacher learning and whether this can happen on a large-scale. Extending prior research that explores the relationship between contextual factors, engagement, and learning in online settings, this mixed-method study examines outcomes in a MOOC designed for teachers of English learners (ELs). In particular, the study identifies and examines structural and social supports that were available to some course participants (release time, stipends, participating with colleagues, and having a facilitator who convened face-to-face meetings) and investigates whether these local conditions were significantly related to completion and learning. Findings indicate that participants who received more supports were significantly more likely to complete the course. While participants, on average, showed evidence of learning, participants receiving supports did not show evidence of learning more than other participants. This is potentially due to omitted variable bias because participants who completed the course without supports may differ from participants who completed the course with supports in important, unaccounted for ways. This study extends prior research about how learning environments impact online learning experiences and suggests that structural and social supports may be useful in facilitating MOOC completion.


MOOCs, teacher professional development, classroom discourse

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v25i2.1586

Copyright (c) 2021 Sara Rutherford-Quach, Karen Thompson, Claudia Rodriguez-Mojica, Diego Román

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/