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The open and massive characteristics of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) lead to a lack of instructor presence, which potentially hinders learners' commitment and learning processes. As a result, the effectiveness of MOOCs is contingent upon the extent to which learners direct their own learning. However, learners' self-directed learning and commitment are largely influenced by course design factors due to lack of direct learner-instructor interactions. In order to address the current gap in the literature with regard to how course design factors influence learning processes and outcomes, this study investigated the relationships between MOOC design factors, learner commitment, self-directed learning, and intentions for future learning, using survey responses collected from 664 learners who took a large-scale MOOC. We found that the transactional distance between learners and content was associated with students' self-directed learning. Course structure and organization predicted both students' self-directed learning and commitment to the MOOC. Importantly, self-directed learning mediated relationships between the course design factors and learners’ intentions for further learning. Based on our findings, we provide design strategies for effective learner-content interaction in large-scale self-paced MOOCs.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. © 2021, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International license. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Computers & Education,