Incepting Massive Behavioural Change in Animal Welfare

Jill Mackay, Natalie Waran, Fritha M. Langford

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a novel method of educational delivery. ‘Massive’ courses may reach tens of thousands of people; their ‘open’ status allows for the learning materials to be freely available and allowed for re-use; as ‘online’ programmes they can be accessed widely in geographical terms, often inside the student’s own home; and ‘courses’ have defined learning outcomes which may instigate behavioural change. The Animal Behaviour and Welfare MOOC hosted on Coursera ( therefore may be a mechanism for incepting massive behavioural change in humans regarding animal welfare providing that 1) students engage with the materials and 2) achievement of learning outcomes translate to changes in behaviour. Previous work has established that the course and its materials was highly successful in a cohort-based learning system. Over two sessions, 37,279 students engaged with the course with 9029 (24.2% of engaged students) completion certificates awarded. The session based courses demonstrated good evidence of learning outcome attainment and student enjoyment, but the high engagement of the teaching staff was particularly highlighted as a valuable learning experience. The course transitioned to an ‘on-demand’ system in November 2015 which does not support the same level of sustained staff engagement. The on-demand course has been visited by 27,000 of which 6,800 (25.2% of visitors) become active learners who engage with course materials. At present, 988 people (3.7% of visitors) have paid for a certificate indicating their satisfactory (>40% grade) completion of the learning materials. It should be noted this is not a comparable metric to the completion certificate which was a free resource. As of April 2016, 66 learners had left ‘learner stories’ via the Coursera platform, describing their experience. Qualitative analysis of these revealed evidence of attitudinal change which may translate into behavioural change, ranging from changing companion animal husbandry to purchasing habits and seeking out further educational resources. The learner stories showed a strong positive bias with a large majority finding the course an enjoyable learning experience. On-demand MOOCs may therefore be a possible mechanism for incepting human behavioural change on a large scale. A comparable number of students show engagement with the learning materials even without the sustained instructor contact in comparison to the session-based courses, and students are able to state changes they intend to make to their own behaviour. Follow up work should investigate whether these changes are long-term and can be considered an effective method of delivering human behavioural change in an animal welfare context.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2016
EventHuman Behavioural Change for Animal Welfare - Surrey, Dorking, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Sept 201621 Sept 2016


ConferenceHuman Behavioural Change for Animal Welfare
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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