What the data is telling us about MOOCs
Attrition rates and other data from MIT and Harvard's 17 MOOCs (MITx and HarvardX) with 700,000 participants were studied by MIT's Isaac Chuang and Harvard's Andrew Ho. Chuang and Ho's findings dispelled some of the myths that have been developing around MOOCs, while uncovering other interesting findings about participation rates and demographics.
Consider this aspect of MOOCs as well -- data on course performance and attrition is readily available, in almost real time, allowing for continuous adjustment and improvement.
1. Participants are getting something out of the courses -- even if they are not attaining certificates. While large numbers of participants are not achieving certificates of completion, they are getting substance from the courses, the reviewers said. "Course completion rates, often seen as a bellwether for MOOCs, can be misleading and may at times be counterproductive indicators of the impact and potential of open online courses.The researchers found evidence of large numbers of registrants who may not have completed a course, but who still accessed substantial amounts of course content. Across the 17 MITx and HarvardX courses covered in the reports, 43,196 registrants earned certificates of completion. Additionally, another 35,937 registrants explored half or more of the units in a course without achieving certification.
“We found students in the courses who engaged with every single piece of the courseware, students who only read text or viewed videos, students who only took assessments or completed problem sets, and students representing nearly every possible combination of these behaviors,” Chuang explains. “Experimentation is part of the learning process.” An additional 469,702 registrants viewed less than half of the units in a course and another 292,852 registrants never engaged with the online content.
2. Most MOOC attrition occurs within the first two weeks of course registration. I remember back in my university days, classes were always packed the first week, then thinned out considerably after that. MOOCs follow a similar attendance pattern. On average, Chaung and Ho found, 50 percent of people left within a week or two of enrolling. "After that window, attrition rates decreased substantially," they added. "The average probability of a student ceasing to engage in the second week of the course declined to 16 percent. While the persistence rates in MOOCs look very different from those of conventional courses in higher education, they look very similar to how people interact with other Web-based media, such as video or social network sites."
3. A substantial portion of MOOC enrollees are non-college graduates, and some are from severely underdeveloped regions of the world. One of the greatest value propositions of MOOCs is they open the world's best education resources to people who ordinarily wouldn't have access. While the most typical course registrant in these initial courses was a male with a bachelor’s degree, age 26 or older, that's only about one-third of program participants. Another 33 percent reported a high-school education or less, and three percent had IP or mailing addresses from countries on the United Nations’ list of Least Developed Countries.“MOOCs are reaching many nontraditional and underserved communities of students, very different from typical students on campuses at traditional universities," said Chaung.
(Thumbnail photo: HubSpot.)
— By Joe McKendrick on January 28, 2014, 3:08 PM PST
The last article about these and their dismal success rate got me interested, so I signed up for one. I now fully understand why they have problems. First and foremost, these classes mean nothing. Yes, you might learn a lot, but no matter how many you take, you are no closer to getting a degree. Since there is no college credit involved and there are no costs, there is no ramifications of throwing up your hands and quitting. The one that I am doing is merely a collection of readings from the internet, posting some opinions on a bulletin board and taking a multiple choice test every week. However, this is less organized than the online courses I took back in 1992. I will finish this one up, but can not imagine taking another one.
" 1. Participants are getting something out of the courses"
Is this nor fairly self evident - you do some course work, hopefully some of it (at the very least) goes in and you benefit from it.
MOOC's are little different in this respect to many other forms of knowledge consumption - reading various stuff from newspapers, through more in depth articles and books to journal entries, internet, interacting with peers, being mentored, training (on job, 'coaching in the moment', senior escalation, informal 1-2 hour workshops to multi-day courses.)
MOOC's - Much blog publicity, but little revenue hence the effective disinterest from the sposoring colleges and universities.
The UK's Open University has long preceed ed MOOC's with striking an appropriate balance between cost and the rigor of certified qualifications.