edX MOOC Research Gives Clearer Picture, Challenges Assumptions

01 Apr

By Dian Schaffhauser

If massive open online courses are goldmines of data, surely, edX must be the mother lode. MIT and Harvard University have just published a 37-page draft report that summarizes a multitude of findings from two years of hosting 68 courses on the popular MOOC platform. That encompassed 1.7 million participants, 10 million “participant hours” and 1.1 billion “participant-logged events.” edX is a non-profit learning platform founded by the two institutions in 2012. (Those courses offered on edX by Harvard are available through HarvardX; those from MIT are available on MITx.)

The research team, led by Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Isaac Chuang, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and senior associate dean of digital learning at MIT, discovered the following:

  • Growth is steady. Across all courses, cumulative enrollment has risen at a steady pace of 2,200 participants a day;
  • Participation mostly declines in repeated courses initially, then it stabilizes. In 11 courses with repeated versions, participation declined by an average of 43 percent from the first to the second version. For the five courses that had a third version, participation was essentially unchanged from the second to the third version;
  • However, declining enrollment isn’t a foregone conclusion. HarvardX’s introduction to computer science course, CS50x, actually doubled in size from the first version to the second. According to the researchers, this was due to a doubling of the course administration window as well as the additions of support for asynchronous participation (students could take it over a year-long period) and certification;
  • Curriculum determines participation. The two institutions assigned courses to four rough categories: computer science (CS); science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); humanities, history, religion, design and education (HHRDE); and government and health and social sciences (GHSS). The CS courses ruled with an average participation of 68,000 vs. 19,000 for the other categories;
  • Certification follows its own pattern of participation. According to the report, the CS and STEM courses had average certification rates that were about half that of HHRDE and GHSS courses — 7 percent and 6 percent vs. 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively;
  • Certification rates explode when participants pay for the privilege through an “ID-verify” process — 59 percent for verified students compared to 5 percent for non-verified students, on average, across 12 courses. An ID-verified certification requires successful completion of the course and verification of identity through a photo ID. The other form of certification is referred to as an “honor code certificate of achievement,” which certifies for free that the person has completed the course successfully but doesn’t require a photo ID;

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: ]

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Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News


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