By Carl Straumsheim
ARLINGTON, Texas — The story so far: Massive open online courses have yet to live up to their potential. But unlocking that potential could already be a pilot at a community college, state university or private institution.
More than 200 scholars from institutions all over the world have gathered here to hear preliminary results from the MOOC Research Initiative, a grant program founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by Athabasca University in Canada. Grantees, who received between $10,000 and $25,000 to examine how MOOCs can be used to change higher education, will compile their findings in a forthcoming edition of the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.
The research presented on Thursday was perhaps best summarized by research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, which analyzed the study habits of 1 million students across 16 Coursera courses between June of 2012 and 2013.
“Emerging data … show that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user ‘engagement’ falls off dramatically especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course, and that few users persist to the course end,” a summary of the study reads.
For anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to the MOOC space over the past year, those conclusions hardly qualify as revelations. Yet some presenters said they felt the first day of the conference served as an opportunity to confirm some of those commonly held beliefs about MOOCs.
Many speakers repeatedly pointed out that the cost of MOOC production — which can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars — has created classes of MOOC producing and MOOC consuming institutions. This creates issues for both groups; the former doesn’t want to appear elitist, while the latter rejects content not created by their own faculty members.
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/06/mooc-research-conference-confirms-commonly-held-beliefs-about-medium ]