There’s More to Online Learning Than Course Completion Rates

Completion rates remain a contentious issue when discussing massive open online courses. Yet, new papers released Tuesday by Harvard and MIT argue there’s more to learning online than a shrinking number of registrants would suggest.

The academic pair powering edX published the first in a series of working papers based on 17 courses offered through the local online learning platform. From ancient Greek poetry to electromagnetism, the course topics varied, covering a range of disciplines researchers were able to draw insights from.

A fixation on completion rates limits our imagination of what might be possible with MOOCs. A better criterion for success might be for students to complete more of the course than they thought they would, or to learn more than they might have expected when they first clicked on a video or course forum.

So, why not stop harping on the negative? MOOCs can’t be judged solely by completion rates.

This isn’t just about MOOCs. This is about the democratization of learning: Learners are in control. We are at the beginning of an exciting effort to understand how people learn and how to educate well and effectively at scale.

Read the entire article by Lauren Landry on BostInno at

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