What Kind Of Beast Is A MOOC?
“For comparison, the equivalent figure for my own university, Stanford, is 95 percent. That’s right, 95 percent; a higher attrition rate than my online course. That’s not Stanford’s published “graduation rate,” of course. Of students admitted, 79 percent graduate in four years and 96 percent within six.
But that’s comparing apples with oranges. Anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs onto the website and signs up, thereby becoming one of the statistics. So a fair comparison would be to take the number of students who apply to Stanford. That figure is around 35,000, by chance about the number of students I expect will sign on for my course.
So considerably more students who sign up for my free online course will graduate than will occur with students who ‘sign up’ (i.e., apply) to Stanford, which graduates about 1,700 students a year.”
I’m sorry, Professor Devlin, but that comparison just doesn’t hold up. Students apply to a traditional college hoping to be admitted; they almost always apply to several other colleges, and they certainly don’t intend to be a student at all of them. Someone who signs up for a MOOC is signaling an intention to learn from that particular course, and if they drop out, that carries a different meaning from not being admitted to or not accepting admission at a traditional college.
Devlin is on firmer ground when he continues,
” . . . applying the traditional metrics of higher education to MOOCs is entirely misleading. MOOCs are a very different kind of educational package, and they need different metrics — metrics that we do not yet know how to construct.
Once thing that we have learned from the research done on the first twelve months of MOOCs is that, besides their students being typically much older than the traditional college population (median ages seem to be in the mid-thirties, but the spread is large), people sign up for a MOOC for very different reasons.
A great many never intend to complete the course. Rather, their goal is to sample, in order to get a general sense of a subject or topic. In other words, they come looking for education. Pure and simple.” (Read more here.)
A more accurate comparison, then, might be picking up a book on a topic one wants to learn more about. One might finish reading the book, or one might put it aside after deciding it’s not worth the investment of time and effort.
What’s your opinion—how should we think about MOOCs?