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Learners who sign up for a massive open online course just days before it starts and complete a precourse survey are much more likely than their peers to finish the MOOC, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Higher Education. Researchers at Vanderbilt University examined the behavior of more than 2.1 million learners in 44 different MOOCs offered on Coursera, finding that precourse survey completers viewed 12 more lectures and were 12 percent more likely to earn a certificate of completion compared to those who skipped the survey.

The results also provided some pointers for MOOC instructors on how best to structure their courses. Learners were more likely to watch lecture videos if they were posted toward the end of the week, the researchers found, while the length of the lectures appeared to have no impact on whether students watched them.