Effects of Pre-tests and Feedback on Performance Outcomes in Massive Open Online Courses


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Effects of Pre-tests and Feedback on Performance Outcomes in Massive Open Online Courses is a well-researched Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


This experimental study examined the effects of pre-tests and feedback on learning outcomes in a five-week massive open online course (MOOC). The participants (N = 399) were adults from around the world who self-enrolled in the American Museum of Natural History’s (AMNH) climate change MOOC (called Our Earth’s Future) offered on the Coursera platform.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Learners in the first treatment group took pre-tests without receiving feedback. Learners in the second treatment group took pre-tests and received basic (correct/incorrect) feedback. Learners in the third treatment group took pre-tests and received elaborate feedback. The fourth group was the control.

Post-tests were administered to measure learning outcomes. Additionally, we examined links among self- efficacy, persistence, and outcome measures. Of the 606 participants assigned to the four conditions, 399 met the criteria for inclusion in the final analysis.

Results of this study indicate that: (1) among all users in a MOOC, pre-tests, and feedback do not affect learning outcomes; (2) the presence of pre-tests significantly and negatively affects persistence and completion, deterring some participants from progressing through the course; (3) among those who do persist and complete the course, those who take pre-tests achieve higher learning outcomes than those who do not; and (4) among those who take pre-tests, there is a positive, cumulative effect of persistence (module completion) on learning outcomes.

These findings represent a new contribution to the literature on assessment and feedback, expanding the field to include adult participants from around the world who enrolled in a self-paced, not-for-credit online science course.

The results pave the way for future research in this area with this population and have a direct practical application for online course developers, offering them information to help improve student learning outcomes and engagement.


Testing is often associated exclusively with summative assessment, in which it is used after a unit of instruction to measure whether or not participants have achieved desired learning outcomes.

This is the testing of learning. When used in formative assessment, testing supports the ongoing adaptation of teaching to improve student learning (Gikandi, Morrow, & Davis, 2011). This is testing for learning.

Research indicates that testing for learning can be highly effective (Beckman, 2008; Bjork, Storm, & deWinstanley, 2010; Kornell, Hays, & Bjork, 2009; Richland, Kornell, & Kao, 2009). For example, educational psychology studies have shown that pre-tests before instruction can help students learn and encode important concepts that are then presented in detail in future lessons (Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013).

Research has also shown that the effectiveness of tests-as-instruction can be dependent on the feedback that students receive after taking a test (Richland et al., 2009), and that feedback works best when context (student ability, consequences, receptivity, etc.) is considered (Lipnevich, Berg, & Smith, 2017). Studies about the effects of pre-testing and feedback have focused exclusively on K-12 or undergraduate populations in traditional face-to-face classrooms.

To our knowledge, no studies have included an international community of adult1 online learners as participants. With more than 58,000,000 learners enrolled in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in 2016, and global MOOC enrollment continually growing (Global MOOC enrolment jumped again last year, 2017), this population should not be ignored.

The experimental study herein described addressed this gap in the literature by examining the effects of pre-testing with and without feedback on individuals’ performance in a science MOOC. We investigated whether or not the testing and feedback effects observed in traditional classrooms with traditional students are also observed in a non-traditional population of international online learners.

Further, we identified links among learning outcomes, persistence in the course, course completion, and student self-efficacy. Findings from this study expand the literature in this domain to include a new population and also provide educators and instructional designers with information to improve teaching, learning, and engagement in online courses.


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