A recent conference held at the University of Texas at Arlington presented new research on student use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Much of the research was funded through grants by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which champions MOOCs. Despite that funding, the research stressed the high costs of creating MOOCs and the limited usefulness of those courses for students.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education examined approximately a million students who enrolled in sixteen different MOOC courses offered through Coursera during 2012 and 2013, tracing their study habits.
According to this study, “Emerging data … show that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user ‘engagement’ falls off dramatically especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course, and that few users persist to the course end.”
These results mean that students enrolled in MOOCs are much less likely to complete a course than students in college and university classrooms. The finding that students exhibit a lack of “engagement” in the courses suggests that “attrition” is very high indeed—much worse than in classes held at brick-and-mortar institutions. This clearly means that MOOCs are simply not providing an effective education for students enrolled in the courses.
One conference participant stressed that “no one is rushing to embrace a teaching model that retains less than 10 percent of students,” according to Inside Higher Ed.
Far from replacing college and university classroom teaching, MOOCs seem to be failing to even offer effective educational support or remedial training—despite the enormous costs of creating MOOCs.
Inside Higher Ed reports that “Many speakers repeatedly pointed out that the cost of MOOC production — which can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars — has created classes of MOOC producing and MOOC consuming institutions.”
At a time of serious cuts in educational budgets, does it really make sense to invest so much money in producing MOOCs?
Inside Higher Ed reports on the recent research on MOOCs.