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Rethinking Low Completion Rates in Moocs


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An empty classroom.

A Harvard University research fellow is studying the intent of those who sign up for massively open online courses.

Credit: iStockphoto.com

Low completion rates among those who sign up for massively open online courses (MOOCs) has been one of the major sticking points in improving online education, but Harvard University research fellow Justin Reich wants to provide more clarity to the issue by examining the intent of those who sign up for MOOCs.

Reich got 79,500 people who signed up for a handful of the MOOCs offered by Harvard to respond to a survey, enabling him to sort them into four groups based on their intentions when they signed up for the course: completers, auditors, browsers, and those who were unsure of their goal. More than half, 44,500, said they intended to complete the course and earn a certificate, while 23,000 were there to audit the course or were simply browsing, and 12,000 had not decided what their goal was. In addition, Reich found 10,500 people completed the course and earned a certificate, a completion rate of 13.3 percent.

Among those who signed up intending to complete the course, the completion rate was 19.5 percent, while among those who did not intend to complete the course, the completion rate was 5.4 percent.

Reich says the next challenge is determining why people leave MOOCs.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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