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Aurora Institute

Recent MOOC research (Guest blogger, Research Intern Anuar Andres Lequerica)

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Anuar Andres Lequerica

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Increase Access to Broadband, Issues in Practice

Today’s post is by Research Intern Anuar Andres Lequerica who takes a critical look at a Coursera white paper and brings to light additional research that pertains to MOOCs. Enjoy!

An Update from Coursera on Student Performance in MOOCs

Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller has written an article in EdSurge detailing the organization’s growth and releasing some data of student behavior on its MOOCs. Coursera now has more than 100 institutional partners; over 500 MOOCs; more than 5 million students (40% from the developing world). Completion rates tend to be high for students that pay $50 for a verified certificate (around 63%) and much lower for non-paying students (less than 5%).

What to make of the student performance numbers? The data Daphne Koller mentions in the article seems to be from Coursera’s first year of operations (2012). We can hypothesize that students would have a different (hopefully improved) experience if they took the same MOOCs today for a number of reasons. For example, a number of Coursera MOOCs are on their second or third iteration. Coursera has also improved the platform by partnering with a number of organizations to translate/subtitle its MOOCs and has recently launch an app.  Koller has promised more recent student data will be released soon.

There isn’t much research on Coursera. One of the most interesting posts I’ve read regarding student behavior on Coursera has been Georgia Tech’s Tucker Balch’s blog post “A Comparison of Online MOOC Versus On Campus Course Delivery”. Prof. Balch recently taught a graduate-level course on computational finance on-campus and in MOOC version. 29,000 students took the course via Coursera and 100 students took the course on campus at Georgia Tech. MOOC verified certificate completion rate was 99.0% and the overall MOOC completion rate was 4.5%. The on-campus completion rate was 74.0%.

What’s interesting is that MOOC students who completed the course reported a higher satisfaction with the course than on-campus students according to all quantitative measures of the post-course survey, even though on-campus students had access to a few more resources (like in-person Q&A with Prof. Balch and a TA). We can speculate on some of the reasons for this: many on-campus students could have been taking the course as a degree requirement without being very interested in its content while MOOC students that finished were very interested and motivated; on-campus students could be suffering from academia fatigue after years of schooling unlike many MOOC students, which might not have taken a university course in years.

For more data and research on MOOCs, keep these two sources in mind (there’s not much in them yet):