MOOC Attrition Rates — Running the Numbers

25 Nov

By Jonathan Haber

The prosecution against MOOCs usually starts by highlighting the huge attrition rates for massive open courses, often claimed to run as high as 90-95 percent. Who in their right mind would trust their kid’s education to a program that can’t even hold onto one out of ten students? Case closed.

Or is it?

In order to answer that question, we need take a look at the calculation used to determine these alleged drop-out percentages. It’s actually not all that complex since it starts by taking the number of people who hit the enroll button on a site such as Coursera or edX and sticking it into the denominator of a fraction. After that, it’s just a matter of placing the number of students who earned a certificate of completion into the numerator and, voila, you end up with your completion rate!

The completion rate is actually the opposite of attrition, but for purposes of this discussion we’ll use it to see what happens to the percentage of course finishers if we start looking more closely at the numbers used in our fraction (particularly the one below the line).

Basing our denominator on enrollments assumes that everyone who hits the enroll button on a MOOC web page should be considered the equivalent of a college student who signs up to take a course at their university. But is that an appropriate assumption? After all, many schools that allow shop around periods understandably choose not to include shoppers who don’t end up taking the course in their final drop-out calculations. Similarly, schools that permit auditing treat auditors differently than standard enrollees when calculating things like course completion rates and averages grades.

Given that there is no punishment for clicking on that Enroll button on a MOOC site, even if you never had any intention of taking the class to completion, it’s appropriate to ask whether “enrolling” in a MOOC is equivalent to enrolling in a traditional college course, shopping around, browsing through a college catalog or simply filling out an online form that allows you to get something for nothing.

[ Full article available at The Huffington Post: ]

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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in MOOCs in the News


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