Data Mining Exposes Embarrassing Problems For Massive Open Online Courses (MIT Technology Review)

Not only does student participation decline dramatically throughout the new generation of web-based courses but the involvement of teachers in online discussions makes it worse.

It wasn’t so long ago that the excitement surrounding online education reached fever pitch. Various researchers offering free online versions of their university classes found they could attract vast audiences of high quality students from all over the world. The obvious next step was to offer far more of these online classes.

That started a rapid trend and various organisations sprung up to offer online versions of university-level  courses that anyone with an internet connection could sign up for. The highest profile of these are organisations such as Coursera, Udacity and edX.

But this new golden age of education has rapidly lost its lustre. Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported that the online classes it offered had failed miserably. Only about half of the students who registered ever viewed a lecture and only 4 per cent completed a course.

That’s prompted some soul searching among those who have championed this brave new world of education. The questions that urgently need answering are: what’s gone wrong and how can it be fixed?

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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