Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) Dropout Rate in the World: A Protocol for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of e-Learning in Medical Sciences, Virtual School, Center of Excellence for e-Learning in Medical Sciences, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran

2 Gastroenterohepatology Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.

3 Department of Health Sciences Education Development, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Introduction: Massive open online course (MOOC) is an online 
course that is open, meaning there are no barriers to entry, and entails 
no special educational costs or features. Recently, MOOCs have 
received increasing popularity throughout the world. Regardless 
of the subject taught and the university providing the course, the 
dropout rate of MOOCs is one of the most important challenges 
ahead. The objective of this systematic review is to estimate the 
global rate of MOOCs dropout and factors affecting this frequency. 
Methods: This systematic review will search MEDLINE/PubMed, 
Scopus, Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics), Embase (Embase.
com), ASSIA, CINAHL, Education Research, BEI, and Eric 
databases systematically according to predefined criteria without 
language restrictions to retrieve prospective and retrospective 
observational studies conducted between the 1st of January 2000 and 
30th of December 2021, evaluating the frequency of leaving MOOCs 
throughout the world. Discordances between the two different 
authors through the processes of screening, selection, quality 
assessment, and data extraction will be settled via discussion and if 
the issue cannot be resolved, a third expert advice will be requested. 
For all studies, forest plots will be shown to represent the separate 
and pooled frequency along with their 95% confidence intervals. 
To examine statistical heterogeneity, the Q-statistic test and the I2
statistic will be utilized. To investigate potential reporting bias and 
non-significant study effects, funnel plots will be employed. Tests, 
such as Begg’s and Egger’s will also be carried out. The time trends 
for MOOCs dropout rate will be calculated using a cumulative 
Conclusion: As dropout rate is one of the most challenges that 
universities may encounter, this systematic review will help 
universities extend their view, save their resources, or maybe 
design their MOOCs differently. This protocol is registered in Open 
Science Framework (OSF), available at:


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