The MOOC Fad is Over — Small is Beautiful
Like with so many fads, MOOC’s are coming under intense scrutiny. New research has been conducted by MOOC Research and funded by the Gates Foundation. One part of the study focused on completion data which we share below:
Size and length matters. The researchers found that the size of the class and the length of the class really matters.
On at least two counts, there is a significant negative correlation between the size of the MOOC and its completion rates.
More Enrollees Don’t Help
Negative Correlation between number of enrollees and the percentage who complete. This relates to the classic registered user problem with consumer facing websites. The number of registered users is a very bad indication of future success.
It’s typically the active users that matter. Likely outcome — smaller classes
More Active Users Don’t Help
More active users do not make for a better MOOC. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. There is a significant negative correlation between number of active users and the percentage who complete a MOOC
One thought could be that the initial run of students join and participate in the course expecting some kind of result that is not realistic and therefore fade.
Another is a anecdotal characteristic we have seen for years is that only a small percentage of students across any generation have been sufficiently self-motivated to power through the equivalence of correspondence courses.
The faddish nature of MOOC’s is over. MOOC’s have to survive on their own merits.
Longer Courses Don’t Help
The longer your course, the lower the percentage who see it through. The staying power of students with a MOOC is tested severely by the length of the course.
What’s the Path Forward? Synchronous Online Learning
The economic power of MOOC’s is falling apart. There is no point in having large classes that no one sticks with. If the courses get shorter, and the class sizes get smaller, then we will be seeing a more likely return to synchronous learning as an effective alternative.
Why Online Synchronous Learning Works
Synchronous Learning Drives Engagement
Online synchronous learning works in smaller class sizes for longer durations.
- Relationships have time to form, if virtually, across teachers and students.
- Teacher engagement is high, enabling active students to be stimulated by the teacher and other students over time.
Online Synchronous Learning reduces the economic cost to experiment
Running synchronous classes online eliminates the fixed costs of buildlng and equipment and thereby enables schools to experiment with smaller class sizes for shorter periods of times with more fine-grained topics. Teacher recruitment for specialization is easier since the physical location of the teacher is irrelevant.