What Drives MOOC Learners?

Career College Central summary:

  • Texas universities increasingly are opening up classes to anyone with an email address and an internet connection, even as they struggle to measure learner success and gain insight into the unseen millions logging on to learn. Few students who register for massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are finishing them. Completion rates at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, have ranged up to just 13 percent, officials said. At Rice University, between 5 percent and 8 percent of registrants finished their courses, the school reported.
  • A key reason for the low completion rates reported is the low bar for MOOC entry. Students might pay $1,000 to take a traditional college course. They have skin in the game. By contrast, anyone with an email address and internet connection can join a massive open online course. After enrollment, students can participate at their pleasure. Few fully engage to read assignments, write papers, collaborate in study groups and submit projects, experts say. Still, according to educators, there’s merit in every stage of MOOC engagement for teaching and learning.
  • Rice professors have taught seven MOOCs on topics ranging from the fundamentals of electrical engineering to nanotechnology and analytical chemistry. UT-Austin offered four MOOCs last fall and will present four this spring and at least one this fall. One mechanical engineering course called Energy 101, offered through EdX, enrolled 44,000 people; of these, roughly 38,000 students representing 173 countries participated. Only 7,238 engaged over the entire 10 weeks, and 4,707 received certificates. That’s about 12 percent completion among participants and 11 percent completion among enrollees — roughly double the school’s average MOOC completion rate of 6 percent, according to Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and research.

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