Only four percent complete massive open online courses: setback or growing pains?
That's the gist of a recent study from a University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) study. The study's authors, Laura Perna and Alan Ruby, analyzed the movement of a million users through sixteen Coursera courses offered by the University of Pennsylvania from June 2012 to June 2013.
MOOCs -- first launched by a Stanford professor in the fall of 2013 -- attract hundreds of thousands of students from across the globe. They typically are delivered via online video, and include pop-up quizzes and exams, with progress automatically tracked. Currently, most MOOCs offer a statement of participation from instructors.
So far, completion rates have been disappointingly low, the study finds. While courses typically attracted between 15,000 to 100,000 registrants, only about half actually made it to at least one "class" -- or video lecture. Ultimately, only 2% to 14% fully completed the courses, averaging 4% across the board.
Four percent out of one million is 40,000 completions. Is this a bad thing? One one level, there's the psychology of "free" versus "paid for." There is something in human nature that diminishes the value of and commitment to free things. Whereas, a course into which a participant has invested tuition money leads to a higher perceived value, and desire to protect the investment.
MOOC advocates are proposing that online courses be positioned as resources to existing programs, versus replacements. Stanford's Sebastian Thrun, one of the original MOOC creators and founder of Udacity, a leading MOOC platform, has been looking at alternative roles for MOOCs beyond simple online delivery, The New York Times' Tamar Lewin reports. There has been disappointment in the wake of a MOOC experiment conducted in conjunction with with San Jose State University, in which less than 25% of participants successfully completed a mathematics course.
One approach being increasingly advocated is to employ MOOCs as supplemental resources to traditional learning programs, including corporate training. In an interview, Thrun pointed out that MOOCs are still very new to the education scene, and all forms of disruptive innovation move forward in fits and starts.
Ultimately, education continues to move to an online delivery model, both as a resource for on-campus or on-site programs, as well as a disruptive force that is opening up ivory towers for more of the world to share.
(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)
— By Joe McKendrick on December 15, 2013, 9:36 PM PST
After reading this article, I found one that interested me and signed up for it just to check it out. Everything discussed by others is true. So far, it is a collection of readings and videos that I could have gotten elsewhere and since there is no college credit, there is little drive to complete. It is also pretty disorganized. I got my degree through an partial online program from University of Maryland way back in 92, and they were much better prepared than this. I will probably finish this just because I don't like to quit anything, but I wouldn't do another.
"MOOCs -- first launched by a Stanford professor in the fall of 2013 -- ..."
Let me check my calendar.... Hmmm... Winter 2013 starts this weekend. How can a realistic study be conducted and conclusions as to failure be made in four months?
I'm no researcher, but that just sounds wrong. Can the author possibly provide a correct date for the launch of MOOCs? As an intelligent, rational person, I cannot accept any of this article until a reasonable date, and consequent reasonable study period, can be provided.
I'm just sayin'...
I use these classes to supplement my course material at a university. Sometimes these videos provide the extra boost to helping me understand advanced concepts. I definitely just sign up and not plan on finishing them as I just want access to the material
I took a couple of classes and fell behind so I dropped. The problem is you don't get weekends off like in real life so you can't catch up if you miss a day. Some of the assignments require lots of reading so it's hard to cram two days of reading into one day to catch up. They need to allow for more flexibility because the people taking these classes have lives and jobs and things to do. They aren't like college students who can study for 8 hours a day. Credit would be nice but it isn't necessary, most people take these classes to increase their knowledge of the world for personal enrichment.
If I just want knowledge, the internet provides nearly unlimited access to it without the need for MOOCs. These are portrayed as internet college classes and the expectation by many is that they will qualify for credit and save them a bit off their massive school debt. I'd love to save $1,000 off my $40,000 debt by being able to get a class or two through a MOOC, but without the credit aspect, there just isn't much point.
I have signed up for 3 MOOCs and never completed them. There is little guidance and there are too many trolls and spammers that ruin it because there is no monitoring of the discussion boards. When I want to learn about something, I just watch a few YouTube videos.
I signed up for a MOOC see what the hype for this model of learning was all about and it was a mess even before it officially started - totally unorganized. I bailed before the first class.
I think the point is to provide one with knowledge, not necessarily "credit". If you want credit, pay for it. If you want knowledge, just open your eyes and ears.
Honestly, I think this has a lot to do with fear. These types of classes are new and we are already having problems in the education sector with actual colleges losing accreditation and people's degrees ending up worthless. How are we supposed to try these "open classes" to provide us with anything we can actually CLAIM on an application or for transfer credits or anything at all?
I have now completed several moocs, and signed up for several more, to see what they are about. Is that a problem? It does create a very skewed pass rate though.
I have mucked about with MOOCs occasionally when I wanted to learn a few specific things. The thing I missed with them was the interaction possible with traditional college settings. Nothing beats the interactive setting of an actual classroom. Our system is broken, says one of the responders here; I think that we have begun to think of "education" as "consumable." I don't think that's a useful way to think about it. Maybe "useful" isn't the right word
it's free candy.
and consider the window shoppers who are only out for a stroll and lured by
the infinite # of distractions.
given all this, i'm guessing 4% is a good number.
First launched in...... you're kidding - right?
Why don't you go look up somebody named Stephen Downes....
MOOC should be 100% accreditted and should go a degree. No one does things for
A degree is the light at the end of the tunnel.
On line college courses cost the same as in class ? The whole idea was to reduce costs
and enroll students that lived to far from the schools.
Our educational system is broken and this administration is doing nothing to
make it any better.
See you in three years. The broken promisses of Obummer roll on........
Maybe next time?
1) Fix your typos. :-)
2) 4% of 50,000 enrollees is 2000 completions. One lecturer yields 2000 completions per semester, with no money spent on TAs or graders, and colleges/universities are trying to say that's not a success??? Is it any wonder that most colleges/universities continually bad-mouth MOOCs and won't give credit for them? MOOCs would destroy most colleges/universities if people could take (supervised) tests and obtain college credit.
2 thoughts on that:
A)You nailed the problem with “free”. Good intentions not withstanding, since the cost of admission is somewhere between cheap to free, one does not feel as compelled to attend as one who’s actually spent or borrowed 5 or 6 figures to do so.
B)These are supposedly university level courses, so they are probably far more intense than the “average” attendee is expecting. If there were to be a higher fee, people would question their acumen and commitment before signing up. For those who don’t they soon tune out. There’s plenty of less demanding content available on the Internet or TV.
An important reason folks may not be completing the quizzes and certifications of MOOCs is that they may realize they don't need them. I may be looking for something specific in 3 out of 10 modules of a MOOC and have no need to test myself or get any kind of credit for it. If the majority of people are tailoring MOOCs to learn specific things they need right away, then MOOCs are a rousing success.
I did not see any mention in the article regarding college credit for the education. Receiving a statement of participation is nice, and you are getting an education, however, I would think the amount of people studying without getting any credit from it, would be extremely low. It is my belief that this is the real issue with the low numbers.
@dmm99 I've take several Coursera courses. A lot of these courses do have TAs and graders. Many courses run online discussion groups and have "office hours". And while it's clear most professors are adapting their existing lecture material, the lectures are still done specially for the Coursera offerings. They're usually not somebody taping standard college lectures with poor audio.
The real problem with giving credit is verifying that the enrolled student is the one actually doing the work. Until there is some way for a college to verify this, why would they risk their reputation by giving regular college credit?
@zackers I totally agree that colleges shouldn't give credit for online courses without verifying the identity of the test-taker and/or assignment-doer. However, 1) colleges routinely take students' word that they in fact did the assignment they are turning in; 2) both regular and on-line courses at regular colleges often have on-line assignments, quizzes, and tests, with no way to verify the identity of the person at the keyboard; and 3) there are testing centers all around the country that could give on-line or written tests, and verify the takers' identities.
So, I stand by my original accusation. It's all about money, power, control, and (in many cases) survival. It's not about education, or QC.