Uncovering the Geography of Learner Engagement in MOOCs

COIL is proud to have supported the Uncovering the Geography of Learner Engagement in MOOCs project through our Research Initiation Grant Program.


This project will characterize, explore, and visualize the geographic patterns associated with learner engagement in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs generate datasets which capture a wide range of learner information, including their interactions with the course content, performance on assessments, and contact with other students through discussions. These data can be geolocated through the use of Internet Protocol (IP) address records, and new methods in development at Penn State provide the opportunity to extract the places learners talk about from their discussion posts. Current research on MOOC learner engagement focuses on country-level geographic data gathered through survey or IP address data. Considering the interest in global learning communities that MOOCs create, there is surprisingly little known about how place matters beyond simple measures of the proportion of students from a given country. We will advance geographic knowledge about MOOC learners by uncovering and visualizing the spatial and temporal patterns associated with learners in a MOOC, including their outcomes, their engagement, and the places that learners discuss in relation to course topics. A key outcome of this research will be the development of an interactive mapping tool designed to explore and visualize these spatial and temporal dimensions of MOOC learner engagement.


  • Anthony C. Robinson, Department of Geography & John A. Dutton e-Education Institute (Principal Investigator)
  • Sterling Quinn, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography


Anthony Robinson Headshot


Anthony C. Robinson
John A. Dutton e-Education Institute
University Park Campus
(814) 574-0030


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

COIL Articles