The tricky task of figuring out what makes a MOOC successful

Posted on January 18th, 2014

A new paper found that in the first year of HarvardX and MITx, only 5 percent of people who registered for a MOOC went on to earn a certificate of completion these courses. ¬†However, two authors from the report argue that “completion rates are a measure that threatens the goals of educational access that motivated the creation of MOOCs”. The authors argue that there is a wide variety of learning practices emerging in open online learning environments that may be obscured by a focus on completion rates. For example, they highlight a case of how exposure from the Colbert Report, a popular television show, lead to tripling a registration rates but only doubling certification rates. ¬†One of the reasons completion rates were lower is that “nearly half of registrants were joining courses that were already closed for certification.” While closing those courses to new registrants would have increased certification rates, it would lead to a minimization of students learning something new.