As I posted a few months ago, I’d enrolled in an introductory computer science MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offered by Udacity. I was studying in the self-study mode, so there were no deadlines for submitting assessment tasks. For a couple of weeks I completed some study a couple of nights a week, and finished the first of the seven units in the course.
However, I would now class myself as a drop-out, as I haven’t looked at the course for a couple of months. I’m still enrolled (I think) so it’s there if I get the inclination to return, but I don’t think I will. The course was well-presented, and the content was fine, but I just didn’t get into it. Maybe if I was planning to change careers I would have been more committed, but because I was doing the course more out of personal interest than for professional development I didn’t feel a need to complete it.
I’m certainly not alone in not completing a MOOC. A recent study found that the average completion rate for MOOCs is 7.6%, although the new OUA MOOC seems to be bucking the trend with a reported 26% completion rate. If a bricks-and-mortar university was offering a course which had a completion rate this low, there’d be an outcry. This traditional thinking is being applied to MOOCs, even though the model they use is quite different to a traditional university. It may be that students learnt what they wanted or needed to know within the first few weeks of a MOOC, and didn’t see the point of completing it. Maybe they’ll return and complete some more of the course later. Because it’s free to enrol in a MOOC, there’s no pressure on students to stick with a course they don’t like in order to justify spending money on their education. Students (usually) enter traditional universities to graduate with a qualification that will help them with their career. Because MOOCs don’t currently offer this pathway, the “success” of students needs to be measured differently.
However, my experience with this MOOC hasn’t turned me off the idea completely. I’ve enrolled in an edX MOOC being offered by Harvard University which is due to start in October. It’s called Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, and I think it will be interesting. It definitely falls into the “personal interest” rather than “professional development” category. Although maybe I could learn something that will help me win our staff ANZAC biscuit baking competition next year …