University of Tasmania
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Relationship between participants’ level of education and engagement in their completion of the Understanding Dementia Massive Open Online Course

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Background: The completion rates for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) generally are low (5-10%) and have been reported to favour participants with higher (typically tertiary-level) education. Despite these factors, the flexible learning offered by a MOOC has the potential to provide an accessible educational environment for a broad spectrum of participants. In this regard, the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre has developed a MOOC on dementia that is evidence-based and intended to address this emerging major global public health issue by providing educational resources to a broad range of caregivers, people with dementia, and health care professionals.

Methods: The Understanding Dementia MOOC was designed specifically to appeal to, and support, adult learners with a limited educational background. The nine-week course was presented in three units. Participants passed a quiz at the end of each unit to continue through the course. A series of discussion boards facilitated peer-to-peer interactions. A separate “Ask an Expert” discussion board also was established for each unit where participants posted questions and faculty with expertise in the area responded.

Results: Almost 10,000 people from 65 countries registered; 4,409 registrants engaged in the discussion boards, and 3,624 (38%) completed the course. Participants’ level of education ranged from postgraduate study to a primary (elementary) school education. Participants without a university education (vocational certificate and below) were as likely as those with a university education to complete the course (χ2 = 2.35, df = 6, p = 0.88) and to engage in the online discussions (F[6, 3799] = 0.85, p = 0.54). Further, participants who completed the MOOC engaged in significantly more discussion board posts than participants who did not complete the course (t = 39.60, df = 4407, p <0.001).

Conclusions: The high completion rate and level of engagement of participants across a broad spectrum of levels of education suggest that MOOCs can be successfully developed and delivered to students from diverse educational backgrounds. The high participation rate also highlights the combination of MOOC design as well as the scale of unmet need for quality dementia education.


Publication title

BMC Medical Education





Article number









Wicking Dementia Research Education Centre


BioMed Central Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2015 The Authors -Licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Health education and promotion

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