MOOCs in STEM Education: The Intentions and Motivations of Developing Country Students

Carleen Maitland Headshot

COIL is proud to have supported the MOOCs in STEM Education: The Intentions and Motivations of Developing Country Students project through our Research Initiation Grant Program.


MOOCs present a potential opportunity for STEM workforce development, both within the U.S. and abroad. For developing country students, whose educational systems struggle with constantly changing technology, STEM MOOCs may offer a unique opportunity. However, to date, little is known about these students’ intentions and motivations. Research in online learning in developing countries suggests extrinsic motivation, together with social influence, are important predictors of online learning intention. However, few studies focus on the unique content and position of individual STEM courses as relates to skills, employment and specific industries.

This project contributes to online innovation in learning by studying developing country students enrolled in STEM MOOCs. Specifically, the research will examine general and industry-driven motivations of MOOC participation from the students’ perspectives. The project will compare developing country participation across STEM courses where a clear tie exists between course content and a particular sector. Examples include geospatial technologies, energy and environmental technologies and infectious disease.

This proposal seeks support for a pilot study of students in Penn State’s “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution” course. Based on both qualitative and quantitative research methods, the pilot’s results will inform subsequent analyses and provide preliminary data for proposals to NSF and others.


  • Carleen Maitland, Associate Professor, College of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University Park
  • Anthony Robinson, Research Associate, GeoVISTA Center and Dutton e-Education Institute, Department of Geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State University Park


Carleen Maitland
Associate Professor, Information Sciences and Technology
104K Info Sci and Tech Bldg.,
University Park, PA 1602
(814) 863-0460

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