By Dian Schaffhauser
Massive open online courses can be as effective to help students learn as face-to-face classes — and the learning outcomes will be equivalent whether or not students have advanced college degrees or something far less than that, whether they’re academically prepared for the class or whether they perform well or poorly on a pretest.
Those results come out of a study performed by a team of researchers from MIT, Tsinghua University and Harvard. According to research published in the current issue of the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, students learn equally no matter their level of education, preparation, and overall ability in the course.
The study grew out of a MOOC developed at MIT that originated as an on-campus course to help struggling students understand “classical mechanics.” “Mechanics ReView,” a “second course” in introductory Newtonian mechanics, is taken in January by students who have received less than a C in MIT’s large-enrollment fall Mechanics course. The review course uses a flipped classroom, in which class time is dedicated to teaching advanced problem-solving skills. The edX platform was used to deliver the online segment of the course for the cohort used in this study.
In June 2013 that same course made its way to the edX platform, and the researchers used various cohorts taken from that MOOC to compare results to the students in the on-campus course. From the MOOC the researchers worked with results from 1,080 students who attempted at least half of questions in the course (out of the 17,000 people who initially signed up). Ninety-five percent of those students earned a certificate. Most of the participants who did less than half of the homework and quiz problems dropped out and didn’t take the post-test, so their learning couldn’t be measured.
[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2014/09/24/researchers-moocs-as-effective-for-learning-as-traditional-courses.aspx ]