Study of MOOCs Suggests Dropping the Label ‘Dropout’

19 Jun

By Avi Wolfman-Arent

Way back in 1978, Frenchy in Grease was unceremoniously dubbed a beauty-school dropout. But what if she took a MOOC today on midcentury follicular art? Might we call her a beauty-school “collector”? What about a beauty-school “bystander”?

Maybe, thanks to a new quantitative study of MOOC engagement released on Wednesday by Cornell and Stanford Universities. After tracking the behavior patterns of more than 300,000 students enrolled in Stanford-based Coursera courses, the authors created a “taxonomy of engagement” to differentiate between different types of MOOC participants.

In this new paradigm there are five broad types of MOOC students.

Viewers “watch lectures, handing in few if any assignments.” Solvers “hand in assignments for a grade, viewing few if any lectures.” All-Rounders “balance the watching of lectures with the handing in of assignments.” Collectors “primarily download lectures.” And bystanders are “registered for the course, but their total activity is below a very low threshold.”

The study found that pasting the “dropout” label on everyone who fails to complete a MOOC misses key distinctions and fails to acknowledge the spectrum of learning goals that students bring to open online courses. A student who engages with the material but does not turn in all assignments should not, the researchers argue, be considered a failure. Nor should it be assumed the MOOC wasn’t useful.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in MOOCs in the News



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