Wednesday, 27 February 2013

MOOC completion and drop-out rates

Yesterday Katy Jordan casually send me her blog (Katy is a fellow PhD'r sitting only 7 feet away from me!). It turned out she is working (in her spare time!) on the completion rates in MOOCs. Looking at xMOOCs by Coursera, EdX mainly, and one course by Udacity and MITx.
Katy is clearly an upcoming academic, she is thorough, focused, analytical ... everything you need to make it in the academic world. AND she is now focusing on MOOC, the completion rates in combination with the assessment types. The nice thing is, she shares her findings live, so a true open scientist. Take a look at her analytics at her MOOC project site here.

More openness will increase development in the spirit of MOOC
One of the tough things she is facing is getting the data opened up for her. Getting her hands on learning analytics is not always that easy. There are many reasons for this (she researches for non-US institute, while looking at US xMOOCs so outside the universities providing the courses, privacy issues, platform difficulties, ...).
While MOOCs (cMOOCs in particular) came from the open education movement, and with all MOOCs spreading the word that every student, no matter were should be able to follow a MOOC, one would hope true openness of data would be possible. But, there are technical issues only being realized right now, and there is of course a market were business models that still needs to be fine-tuned (if not set up), and best practices need to be created,... tough barriers for emerging (international) research fields. A cross-continental research project would be wonderful, a bit like CERN and the Large Hydran Collidor, universities from the world collaborating for the good of all!

One of the main MOOC challenges: MOOC drop-out
As drop-out rates are one of the main MOOC challenges, this research is a gift. For insight in the drop-out rates can provide angles for improvement, increased retention ... So, looking forward to follow Katy's research. And have a look at the wonderful set of papers she has written, including using semantic web technologies... inspiring stuff!

To me, I feel that MOOCs are also a way to improve expert learning, so not necessarily linked to assessments and such. It is more about lifelong learning, getting information to enhance personal knowledge for professional reasons. But that ... is another research all together. For at that point, you cannot look at assessments to indicate completion. For the expert MOOCs might have lurkers (= people that do not actively engage in MOOC interactions, but do follow what is going on) that actually have found what they were looking for, learning without interacting, and those lurkers would be part of the learners finishing the course (but how to analyse that?!).