Only 5 percent of MOOC enrollees complete the course, but that says little about MOOCs’ educational value, argue Brandon Alcorn, Gayle Christensen, and Ezekiel J. Emanuel in The Atlantic.
With no cost to enroll, no penalty for dropping out, and little reward for actually earning a certificate, MOOCs are fundamentally different from traditional classes— and students use them in fundamentally different ways.
Data from more than 1.8 million students enrolled in 36 MOOCs offered by the University of Pennsylvania show that students treat MOOCs like a buffet, sampling the material according to their interests and goals. Some are curious about the subject matter and just watch one or two video lectures; others use the discussion forums to connect with their intellectual peers around the world. Of all enrolled students, nearly 60 percent watch at least one video, complete at least one assignment, or post at least once in a forum.
The Rule of Thirds applies, they write. Roughly one-third of students who sign up for a course watch the first lecture, one-third of those students watch the Week Four lecture, and of those, another third watch the Week Eight lecture and, finally, one-third of the remainder go on to complete enough of the assignments, quizzes, and exams to pass the course and receive a certificate.
What’s more important is the 60 percent engagement rate, they argue.