College grad rates are misleading

Federal graduation rates are misleading for two-year institutions because they confuse associate degrees and short-term vocational certificates.

The feds only look at first-time, full-time college students. A new study finds completion rates are low for second-timers. Only 33.7 percent of returning college students completed their degree, compared with 54.1 percent of first-time students.

MOOCs are a buffet

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.

Online learning is hard, but helpful

California community college students are taking more courses online, but completion rates are lower in online courses, according to a new report. Online learning appears to help stronger students complete their degrees.

Open-door colleges fear new Higher Ed Act

Revisions to the Higher Education Act could hurt open-access colleges, community college leaders fear. The reauthorized law could tie federal funding to completion rates — which are hard to calculate for community colleges — and penalize high student loan default rates.

‘Skill builders’ don’t want degrees

Not all college students want a degree. “Skill builders” use low-cost community colleges to pick up expertise. Once they have what they need — often a raise — they depart, driving up the college’s dropout rate.

About half of recent veterans using the GI Bill will complete a college degree or job training within 10 years, reports a new study. Vets do better in school than adult students who haven’t served in the military.

MOOC completion rates aren’t all that low

MOOC completion rates aren’t all that low, argues Kevin Carey.  Only 4 percent of registrants in a Penn study completed their Coursera course, but that includes a majority who never logged on or quit after one log in.

Completion rates are higher for ‘dual’ students

College completion rates are higher for former “dual enrollment” students who took college-level courses in high school, according to a new report. But that could reflect selection bias.

Overall, six-year completion rates ranged from 40 percent for those who started at community colleges, 63 percent who started at public universities and 73 percent for students who started at four-year private nonprofit institutions. At two-year for-profit colleges, which focus on job training, 62 percent completed a credential.

Stopout rate is 94% at 2-year colleges

“Stopping out” — taking a semester or more off — is very common for Texas community college students. Ninety-four percent of enrollees in 2000 “stopped out” at least once. Taking two or more breaks sharply cut the odds of completion.

Study: Online learning boosts completion

Online learning raises completion rates for community college students, concludes a new study. That contradicts previous research, which found higher failure rates for online community college students in two states.

Building a ‘completion culture’

A community college honor society is trying to build a “culture of completion” on campuses where graduation rates are low.

An online tool helps students track their progress toward their goals at a California college with limited counseling staff.