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Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer a novel learning context in which participants have complete discretion regarding their engagement with the course content. Consequently, some of the participants’ individual characteristics, notably, pre-course motivation, have a considerable effect on their perceptions of the value of the course. This study finds that two contingencies—intentions regarding earning a certificate and industry experience—seem to have a negative impact on the relationships of pre-course interest and motivation with post-course utility reactions. Using survey data gathered from 593 individuals who completed “Introduction to Global Hospitality Management,” a MOOC offered by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, the results from a series of regression analyses demonstrated a small but statistically significant positive relationship between pre-course interest and motivation with post-course utility reactions. However, the results also found that industry experience or the desire for a certificate did, indeed, slightly diminish the participants’ assessment of the course. The findings highlight the relative importance of individual differences for achieving desired training outcomes, and demonstrate the need for a contingency perspective that comprehensively accounts for the degree of choice individuals may have regarding engaging in the course.


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