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Are High MOOC Failure Rates a Bug Or a Feature?

Soulskill posted 1 year,29 days | from the i-wouldn't-try-fixing-it-with-code dept.

Education 122

theodp writes "In 'The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course,' NPR's Eric Westervelt reports that 2013 might be dubbed the year that online education fell back to earth. Westervelt joins others in citing the higher failure rate of online students as evidence that MOOCs aren't all they're cracked up to be. But viewed another way, the ability to try and fail without dire debt or academic consequences that's afforded by MOOCs could be viewed as a feature and not a bug. Being able to learn at one's own pace is what Dr. Yung Tae Kim has long argued is something STEM education sorely lacks, and MOOCs make it feasible to allow students to try-try-again if at first they don't succeed. By the way, if you couldn't scrape together $65,000 to take CS50 in-person at Harvard this year, today's the first day of look-Ma-no-tuition CS50x (review), kids!"

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the rates don't matter as much to me (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840691)

I suspect a large number of the "failures" are just people who had good intentions to follow a course but didn't devote the time to it after all. Lots of people who sign up for a MOOC have other things they're doing, and this thing they don't really have to do inevitably is the first thing cut if they they busy.

But what I am interested in is: 1) how many people actually complete; and 2) what quality of education those who complete have actually received. A course where 1000 people complete and 100 drop out vs. a course where 1000 people complete and 5000 drop out has a very different graduation rate, but both have educated 1000 people. The main worry would be whether the 2nd case has degraded the quality of education, by diluting how many attention the 1000 students who finished the course get... the other 5000 could take up a lot of TA/instruction/etc. resources.

Also, though this is harder to quantify, I'd be interested in how many people who really need the education are getting it through this route. I know a number of academics who take a MOOC now or then out of curiosity or to learn something new. They tend to be some of the more successful students too. That's interesting and has some value, but not really going to change society: a guy with a PhD taking another course isn't going to plug any of our major education gaps. Instead it'd be more interesting of MOOCs are educating people (hopefully at a high level) who don't already have degrees, especially those who wouldn't have gotten them through another route.

the old college time table does not work for all (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840803)

The college time table does not work that well for people who are working.

Classes can get padded out to fit the time and other stuff can get jammed into the time tables as well.

Re:the old college time table does not work for al (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841375)

The college time table does not work that well for people who are working

Not only that, for many people who are NOT from the United States of America, going to college often is an impossible dream.

The MOOC at least offer them a chance to try out.

Even the so-called high failure rate of the enrolled students shouldn't be alarming.

The MOCC enable MANY MORE a venue for them to better themselves - while some of them might fail, most of them will try and try and try again, just like that old choo-choo which kept on trying, until finally they reach their goal.

It really saddens me to see so many people see the world with the viewpoint of the FIRST WORLD while most of the world population are certainly not getting to enjoy the many conveniences / privileges the first world people get but never realize.

Re:the old college time table does not work for al (1)

gwolf (26339) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844959)

Not only that, for many people who are NOT from the United States of America, going to college often is an impossible dream.

You might not have heard about it... But we have colleges and universities also outside the USA.

It really saddens me to see so many people see the world with the viewpoint of the FIRST WORLD while most of the world population are certainly not getting to enjoy the many conveniences / privileges the first world people get but never realize.

I do agree that MOOCs offer alternatives for people who cannot -for whatever reason- attend presential courses. However, I can assure you that in most spots of the "third world" it's easier to go to a good university than to own a computer. (Source: I am a teacher at the largest university in Mexico, often ranked as the most reknown in Latin America. Several of my students don't own a computer. And I have reasons to believe this is a generalization I can make.

Re:the old college time table does not work for al (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844861)

The college time table does not work that well for people who are working.

Exactly. But a good thing of MOOC is that you don't have to stick to the time table: you can take your time and spend several terms before finishing a class if you have other priorities, especially if you don't care about certificates.

I signed up for a class on ancient greek literature (not exactly my field) on edx last june, when the class was about to end. I continued it in the following term, but did not quite manage to finish it and will do the last few lessons this month. For me this is a success because I had a good time and learned some interesting stuff, and will eventually get to the end of the material, but in terms of MOOC statistics I have failed to complete the class twice already.

Curious (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840887)

I suspect a large number of the "failures" are just people who had good intentions to follow a course but didn't devote the time to it after all.

Really? I suspect that the majority are people just curious to find out what an online course is like and so sign up to find out and then, when it fails to meet expectations, drop out.

As for the level of education offered I suspect it varies hugely. My 9 year old son signed up for a Udacity python course and managed to complete 50% of it so I suspect that the level of education from that course was around the primary school level - quite a bit below the university level it is supposed to be at.

Re: Curious (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45841097)

Firstly a sign of a good educator is if he can explain concepts so a 9 year old will understand it.

Secondly from personal experience up to 1/2 of a first year University course is very basic since they assume no knowledge. so yes i'm not surprised your son could do 50% of it. It's like saying your son knows a + b + c = (a+b) + c. which they may cover in the first 50% of a calculus course too, so he may even get through the first half of a calculus course. If your son finishes the whole course then you can come back and pillory it.

Back when i was in university the year would start with 800 students in a class. By mid year we'd have 500 students. By years end, 300. Between my first year and my graduate year in one of my classes there were at least 1,000 students. By graduate year only 45 survived to the second semester (75 started).

Re: Curious (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | 1 year,29 days | (#45843507)

Firstly a sign of a good educator is if he can explain concepts so a 9 year old will understand it.

No, that is a sign of a good educator who is actually teaching nine year olds. I can teach quantum mechanics at a level that a nine year old can understand it but I absolutely do not do that when I'm lecturing in university because it would require that I leave out all of the detailed concepts and maths that those taking a physics degree need to know.

Secondly from personal experience up to 1/2 of a first year University course is very basic since they assume no knowledge.

You went to a bad university. Everywhere I've been as a student, postdoc or a faculty member has intro courses which rely heavily on secondary school level material. It's true that the level starts a bit below the end of secondary school to give students from different backgrounds time to catch up but it's still well above primary school level.

Re: Curious (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844685)

The grandparent said that his 9-year-old completed 50% of it. I'd have been able to complete 50% of several of my university courses at around that age (and, indeed, some of them were revision of things my father taught me at that age), but the remaining 50% was a lot harder. It's fairly common for 50% to be the high-level overview and the remaining 50% to be the detail. To understand the first half, you need to be reasonably intelligent, but to complete the second half you also need a lot of background knowledge (especially in mathematical techniques) that you probably don't have aged 9.

Re:Curious (4, Informative)

AuMatar (183847) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841563)

Try some of the mitx courses. Those can be hard to follow if you have a college engineering degree- they don't dumb it down at all. Udacity really isn't trying to be a college level course- its more a series of not too deep introductions to topics with no rigor behind them.

Re:Curious (2)

tverbeek (457094) | 1 year,29 days | (#45842625)

I signed up for a MOOC in a subject I was really interested in, discovered that it was a clusterfuck that I couldn't get anything out of, and gave up on it. It didn't cost me money, but in terms of setting aside time for it, emotional investment, and spending time trying to get something useful out of it, it was hardly a zero-risk scenario. The notion that it's just a matter of sticktoitiveness and motivation to finish one of those things ignores the fact that anonymous education from unavailable instructors has no value to many people.

Re:Curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45842977)

That's because most people are unmotivated and unintelligent. If they weren't, they could self-educate properly.

Re:Curious (1)

Anitra (99093) | 1 year,29 days | (#45845907)

Ah, but I had at least one class like that while I was in university. Then the question becomes, if you can't get help from the professor... do you stick it out anyway and TRY to finish, or give up and waste thousands of dollars?

I would expect MOOCs to have less oversight than classes at a traditional university, so more of those unsuitable professor/teachers will slip through. My point is that paying for a class and showing up in person still does not guarantee an education in that subject (unfortunately).

Very poor article (2)

ranton (36917) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840979)

The article doesn't give any information about this particular MOOC so it is hard to trust any conclusions they are making. Was this a class that the students were paying for? Did they pay at full tuition rates, or just $100 or so? How many of the people who failed ever even logged in once? Or at least ten times?

I have signed up for dozens of MOOCs at Coursera, but have never kept up with the course while it is going on. I just want to watch the videos and sometimes do an assignment or two, but I never get a grade. I feel that I get quite a bit from these classes even though I am not getting any credit.

Re: Very poor article (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45841147)

agreed. I don't have the time to take on a full course load add in college so yes I'm signed up for a lot of Coursera courses but only do the at about 1/4 the pace of the set schedule. I guessing my statistics address terrible as I've only completed one course on time. All others are audited. I prefer udacity's approach of at your own pace vs a cohort. I understand the challenges of needing to set a timetable but as a working professional I have different needs. Then again maybe that's the whole point, of the complaint, they want people without tertiary education to attend, not graduates,.

Life happens. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841055)

Lots of people who sign up for a MOOC have other things they're doing, and this thing they don't really have to do inevitably is the first thing cut if they they busy.

Exactly. And the further you are along with your life the MORE this happens. So enrolling more non-traditional students means more "failures".

But are they really failures? Even if they did not pass the course did they learn some of the material? More than they knew before? So what if all you learned was bubble sort before you had to drop the class. That's more than you started with. And if you take it again then you might get further.

Re:Life happens. (1)

Alioth (221270) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844331)

Indeed. Last year I took three MOOC courses (in the field of mathematics). Two of them I passed with a distinction, but one of them I had to drop halfway through just because I got too busy at work. The one I dropped I don't consider a "failure" because I learned interesting things from it (one of which I had an immediate application for), and I'll take it again when it is re-offered.

Re:Life happens. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45845135)

Tends to be the case for me. I'm always doing MOOCs, but when work kicks up into high gear for a large project unexpectedly (which unfortunately happens a lot), I pretty much have to drop them and try to back through the materials later, where possible. I still end up finishing the courses depending on the site, but I know I show as a failure or absentee.

Re:the rates don't matter as much to me (3, Informative)

Cattrance (1537577) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841107)

I agree, a vast number of failures is to be expected from an online course that requires no monetary input - this is education based PURELY out of self-motivation. Even those who do have the motivation of "I spent money on this therefore I should complete it" still fail due to lack of effort, even those who have little money to throw around. One can only assume that in a forum where you don't pay for the education nor have devoted educators to "hanker" students (even to the a minor extent) is going to be a higher failure rate.

This article http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/mooc-completion-rates-below-7/2003710.article [timeshighe...tion.co.uk] reported, in a study of 29 MOOCs that the worst course studied had a recruitment of 83,000 students with just 0.8% reaching the end - this is still 664 educated people.

Encouragingly, the best course had a completion rate of 19.2% out of 50,000. This gives us 9600 educated people, not a bad number I say.

We cannot forget that MOOCs aren't just used in order to pass them. Someone might be after a particular piece of information or in more extreme cases, educators might encourage students to join these type of courses to help the course that they are studying. This would increased the course numbers but would also increase the failure rate.

It would be interesting to see whether there are trends between failures in courses, how long people stuck with the course and what uses these online course materials are being put to.

Re:the rates don't matter as much to me (1)

HJED (1304957) | 1 year,29 days | (#45843369)

In my experience online or distance learning courses require more dedication and are also harder than traditional courses (but don't always have the same level of detail). At my high school about 15 people enrolled in distance education courses as part of the HSC, but by the end of the first year only 4 of them (me included) were still doing the courses. The reason being was that unlike a normal class where you have to attend lessons (or at uni tutorials/lecturers) students had to find time and motivation to do all of the course content by themselves. This requires far more diligence and motivation than a traditional course, however the people who did continue did very well in the state wide exams against people who had done the relevant courses face-to-face.
From this experience I would suggest that if you are a dedicated student, distance learning forces you to put in more time to complete the work but you will do well, however if you are not a very dedicated student you will fall behind and likely fail.

Re:the rates don't matter as much to me (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844509)

But what I am interested in is: 1) how many people actually complete; and 2) what quality of education those who complete have actually received. A course where 1000 people complete and 100 drop out vs. a course where 1000 people complete and 5000 drop out has a very different graduation rate, but both have educated 1000 people. The main worry would be whether the 2nd case has degraded the quality of education, by diluting how many attention the 1000 students who finished the course get... the other 5000 could take up a lot of TA/instruction/etc. resources.

I share your suspicion about much of the attrition (signing up for some MOOC is a lot like getting a discount gym membership to go with your New Years' resolution: cheap to do, easy to quit).

However, in addition to your question about quality for graduates, I have one additional concern: much of the hype about MOOCs is not "Hey, this is a cool new way for motivated autodidacts to pick up stuff that you might not find at the local library!"; but various flavors of hype about how Disruptive New Models And Stuff with save us from stratospheric tuition and the higher education bubble and so on. If MOOCs deliver massive attrition, anybody selling that line is either deluded, or just has no interest in the consequences for 'b grade' students who are already most likely to need a bit of coaching to learn to potential.

So long as it's all good fun among consenting participants, MOOCs are under no obligation to produce any particular results at all (though obviously their backers hope that they will), and if the costs are low enough almost any benefit is a net win. However, the minute somebody steps out of their area of strength and starts peddling them as a cheap, innovative, disruptive, etc. alternative to boring old legacy education, they really take on the burden of actually doing reasonably well.

That's what worries me: MOOCs themselves are great stuff, for the sorts of students who have to be actively sabotaged to keep them from learning; but initial results suggest that efficacy plunges once you get outside that category. This is unfortunate; but merely a pity until some huckster shows up with a proposal to replace existing models.

Re:the rates don't matter as much to me (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | 1 year,28 days | (#45847515)

So long as it's all good fun among consenting participants, MOOCs are under no obligation to produce any particular results at all (though obviously their backers hope that they will), and if the costs are low enough almost any benefit is a net win. However, the minute somebody steps out of their area of strength and starts peddling them as a cheap, innovative, disruptive, etc. alternative to boring old legacy education, they really take on the burden of actually doing reasonably well.

For as many survey questions as they throw at you, I'm surprised they never (or rarely) include one about your intentions as a student. I'd tell them all up front I'm not going to pass because I'm just browsing, but I'm still a happy customer just by watching lectures and doing readings and exercises as I like. Whenever I see statistics I cringe, because I know I'm in there as a "failure" when I never intended to "pass" any of the classes I've signed up for.

Less grade inflation / people just trying out the (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840693)

Less grade inflation / people just trying out the classes.

Maybe a mix of both.

Now we need on line schools with real job skills and not an over load of theory.

Also allows for checking out the content (5, Insightful)

KFW (3689) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840697)

I've signed up for MOOC classes that seemed interesting, but once I started I realized the subject matter wasn't what I had thought, or that the instructor's style didn't suit me. So I abandoned those classes. I guess I show up as a "failure" as far as the MOOC goes, but I don't think it really reflects my inability to master the material. So it's not just about being able to repeat until mastery is obtained - it's about being able to check courses out. /K

Re:Also allows for checking out the content (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | 1 year,29 days | (#45843007)

Some of the blurbs sound interesting, with the accompanying videos but some of them don't offer enough detail without clicking enrol.

So enrolling is more akin to turning up to the first week's lecture. A more reliable metric would be to exclude those who, like me, unenrolled before completing an assessment - i.e. how many actually submitted a homework or two before "dropping out" or indeed went through to the end of the class without achieving a passing grade...

Re:Also allows for checking out the content (1)

fermion (181285) | 1 year,29 days | (#45843065)

On one level this is correct. MOOC can simply be seen an another way to educate students. It is relatively cheap, it is available, and might allow more students to be successful. On this basis, passing rate is irrelevant. Really, in a world where students can choose to study what they wish, at a pace that they wish, passing or failing really become besides the point. We are in the ideal world of learning, where self discovery, application, and geniune self worth is the measure of a person, not the arbitrary standards set by a third party. However MOOC has not been presented as another way to educate students. It has been presented as better, cheaper, faster option to educate students. To be sure MOOC is going to be an more effective and cheaper means to teach some students. It is a proven fact in teaching that some students need less intervention, are more self directed, and have a better ability to master the material without excessive helpt than others. These are the type of students we are very experienced at teaching, and in fact the students that everyone wants in their school. They are discipline, respond well to instruction, and can investigate confusing topics on their own. Educating these students has never been difficult. Keeping them on tract to meet some arbitrary third party expectation can be difficult, but that is another matter. So as long as these courses realize that they are not for everyone, all is good. As long they realize that many, if not most, student still need someone to customize and interpret the material, then I am willing to grant that failure rate is not an issue. But for many cases, I think that a good adaptive computer based system along with professional teachers providing scaffolding will be the future. I would not be surprised if in the near future we had most secondary classes were computer based facilitated by instructors, such as the current TFA people, while the professionals meet with them only once a week to diagnose issues and provide feedback.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45840707)

Unless the answer is "no."

Definitely a feature (5, Insightful)

Gavin Scott (15916) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840715)

The ability to join in a course based ONLY on the fact that you're interested in it, with no risk of "failure" is, I think, one of the best features of many MOOCs.

Where there's no difference between "auditing" a class and trying for a certificate, it means that people may be much more likely to try something which they might turn out to enjoy and do well in.

Now, I'm sure if you required people to pay something for the class, or commit to trying for a certificate such that there would be a record/cost of failure, then that would greatly increase the *percentage* of people who would pass. The question is whether you would get more people passing overall since it would stop everyone who was not sufficiently "serious" from attempting the course.

Even those who sign up on a whim and don't get far in a course will probably get something from it, and they might well decide that it was something they want to try again more seriously the next time once they have a taste of what it's about and the amount of work involved.

So absolutely I think "no pressure" is the right way to run a MOOC.


Re:Definitely a feature (1)

plopez (54068) | 1 year,29 days | (#45847091)

The ability to join in a course based ONLY on the fact that you're interested in it, with no risk of "failure" is, I think, one of the best features of many MOOCs.

You can also do this by auditing a course. Nothing new here.

We need COMMUNISM (2)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840717)

Only then will we get free, quality, integrated public education for all! The utopian promises of MOOC are sweet marketing fantasies to disguise a capitalist attack aimed at turning professors into low-wage "trainers" serving exclusively corporate interests.

$2,050 to receive grades on a Harvard trans (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840741)

vs an Certificate at $350.

Now why can't the $350 Certificates add up to some thing or at least let you say I know X with out needing 2-4-6+ years and 50K-250K+ just to get a job? Now at least if you learned real job skills that may be ok but when you can go to an community college and learn real skills for way less.

The ones who need the most help (4, Insightful)

ebonum (830686) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840769)

Let's say you are a smart kid. By 10 years old you are ready to ace calculus. You will suffer horribly waiting around year after year with nothing to do but get in trouble, become board and go completely off track. Schools are designed to severely punish the brightest and make them wait for the mean.

This is a way out. It can only be viewed as a good thing.

Re:The ones who need the most help (2)

YumoolaJohn (3478173) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841975)

Schools are designed to severely punish everyone, not just the brightest.

Re:The ones who need the most help (2)

eepok (545733) | 1 year,29 days | (#45847177)

Schools are designed to use as little money as possible to do some of the most dynamic tasks known to man-- teach, counsel, and inspire young humans to become informed, involved, analytical, creative, and curious older humans regardless of biology or background.

Do not be fooled. This is no easy task and doing it right is not cheap.

If there was more money to hire more teachers and make more (and smaller) classrooms, your rare genius 10-year-old that wants to tackle calculus out of boredom could get his class of 5 similarly-minded children from the county and a sufficiently prepared educator to make that happen. But given the massive task at hand, it's just not fiscally rational.

It's not designed punishment. It's doing the best with what is had. Which isn't much,

Re:The ones who need the most help (1)

YumoolaJohn (3478173) | 1 year,28 days | (#45848315)

It's doing the best with what is had.

Teaching to the test and rote memorization are not "doing the best with what is had." I'd say the real problem is that most people don't even understand what education is to begin with, including many teachers.

Why are MOOCs bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45840771)

Only a MOOC in English would fail to teach the summarizer that when using an acronym you must always define the acronym in full the first time you use it.

WTF is MOOC (5, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840775)

To avoid fail, you need to use well established abbreviations in the post title, or explain fashion of the day abbreviations in the post.

Re:WTF is MOOC (2)

theodp (442580) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840913)

Online lesson learned. :-)
MOOC=Massive Open Online Course [wikipedia.org]

Re:WTF is MOOC (1)

freeze128 (544774) | 1 year,29 days | (#45843351)

Thanks. Now, in this context, what is STEM?

Re:WTF is MOOC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843707)

exactly. I knew what is MOOC but I should google STEM. oh, I see, science, technology etc.

Re: WTF is MOOC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844451)


Re:WTF is MOOC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45842223)

Re:WTF is MOOC (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843747)

Dipshit. You missed the point. He was commenting that an author of a news article should not assume that the reader knows the definition of an abbreviation unless it's in common parlance, which MOOC is not.

Re:WTF is MOOC (-1, Flamebait)

marcello_dl (667940) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844095)

Dude, we are in the hypertext era, even if TFsubmitter does not bother embedding links all you need is select, right click, "search google for", and voila`, you supplied the NSA with another data point. Ain't progress beautiful.

Re:WTF is MOOC (1)

plopez (54068) | 1 year,29 days | (#45847165)

Nope. Write up should be clear and concise. It is, in fact, an abstract, which can be defined as "a summary of a text, scientific article, document, speech, etc.; epitome". Usually of 250 words or less.

Re:WTF is MOOC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#45847399)

It's an abstract all right but look, say, at those abstracts full of obscure acronyms in arxiv.org: they are written for people who are supposed to be able to look them up or know them.

Is this site defined as "news for everyone"? Nope. Do nerds have probs with looking up stuff? nope. Do we want to start explaining acronyms in summaries which usually range from the convoluted to grammatically incorrect?

People get weird with higher ed... (4, Interesting)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840781)

Really weird.

If you want a higher education system where people can just show and shine without going through the rigamarole (ie: completing High School, testing, admission, paying $20k, etc.) then a lot of people will try. Since that rigamarole is actually useful in determining who would be a good student a lot of them will be bad students. They won't be prepared to do homework, they will have other time commitments, they'll turn out to be pretty damn smart (say IQ 120), but not as smart as they thought (IQ 130), etc.

But apparently everyone actually in higher ed assumes that some guy works 60 hours a week, should pass at exactly the same rate as the kid who managed to get a 4.0 from all his teachers in high school and spends all his time on Academics.

what about more of trades / apprenticeship system (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840865)

what about more of trades / apprenticeship system I thing to many people are going to the college system that is not really meant for all but they can do much better in a more of an trades / tech school setting but as they have gotten a bad rap and HR wants degrees for jobs that don't need them / pass over people who taken non degree classes / tech schools leads to people who are smart getting tipped up.

While you have the people who are good at Academics who get good grades but are good with theory and have a hard time with real skills needed to do the job.

Re:what about more of trades / apprenticeship syst (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841349)

We got trade schools. All over. They're called Community Colleges.

We don't have many apprenticeships. That's not because the community colleges hate the idea, it's because an apprenticeship is a long-term contract where an employer agrees to give something to an employee, which means the next HR guy couldn't come in and arbitrarily re-arrange everything, and American businessman really fucking freak out when they lose the ability to re-arrange everything on 10 seconds notice. More importantly it's very hard to convince shareholders they should be paying apprentices to learn when the rest of the industry isn't.

As for pro-degree-having discrimination, keep in mind that at heart American businessman is a coward. He has never met anyone who lost a discrimination lawsuit, but he's convinced that the one time he hires Candidate A (who is less qualified on paper, but killed at the interview and has great work experience), over Candidate B (who is great on paper, but only interviews OK, and has worse work experience) Candidate B will turn out to be a gay Latino Jew and the company will lose the lawsuit. So the guy whose better on paper almost always gets the job.

Re:what about more of trades / apprenticeship syst (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45842097)

Community colleges are absolutely not trade schools.

Re:what about more of trades / apprenticeship syst (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844253)

You know why HR likes people with degrees? Because most of them can write coherent sentences rather than rambling heaps of barely-connected phrases.

Wrong Expectations on Both Sides (5, Interesting)

mx+b (2078162) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841015)

But apparently everyone actually in higher ed assumes that some guy works 60 hours a week, should pass at exactly the same rate as the kid who managed to get a 4.0 from all his teachers in high school and spends all his time on Academics.

I think that's it exactly. I have tried a few of these MOOC classes on a couple different websites (I am primarily a teacher, so not only do I like learning new things and refreshing myself, but I also enjoy seeing different teaching styles to try to integrate into my own).

I have taken a few that were very delightful -- it seems some of the computer science theory classes are the best MOOCs, possibly because they are the most used to working with computers and through the internet?

But many treat the online MOOCs EXACTLY as they would a university course. I have an interest in physics and engineering, for example, so I signed up for a class about photovoltaics, hoping to learn enough to maybe make better decisions in the future about a PV system for my house. Instead, what I got was a few rambly lectures about how photovoltaics are the future, and then straight into a homework assignment requiring some calculations and formulas never elucidated anywhere in the material. Luckily I am comfortable with integrals and was able to complete the first assignment, but I simply gave up after this as it was not a good first impression. Perhaps it was better in later weeks? Who knows. And I think this is the point -- the Lecture-then-let-the-students-struggle-to-solve-homework-problems-never-discussed-in-class model is INCREDIBLY frustrating to begin with, but then to do it completely online without much of a place to turn to? (No solid connections with students or faculty). Its a model for disaster.

MOOCs I think can succeed, but only if we actually take the opportunity to re-think how we present knowledge and check understanding. The university system is, IMHO, beginning to unravel and show itself as not being sustainable. Simply thinking universities can continue on exactly as-is but "in the cloud" is stupid, and this is why many MOOCs are failing to keep their students.

Re:Wrong Expectations on Both Sides (1)

miraculixx (3482637) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844529)

Had a similar experience with an MOOC on Big Data. It was a lot of gibberish with home work assignments in no relation to the course content. Quite simply dropped it (as in unregistered) as it was not worth my time. My take was that there are some professors who like their names to be associated with MOOCs without making the appropriate investment, which is understandable but not worth promoting.

Re:Wrong Expectations on Both Sides (1)

Kjella (173770) | 1 year,29 days | (#45846339)

And I think this is the point -- the Lecture-then-let-the-students-struggle-to-solve-homework-problems-never-discussed-in-class model is INCREDIBLY frustrating (...) Its a model for disaster.

It's a model for disaster in the real world too, it's just much less noticable. Even in good universities that have very bright professors you get a lot of them that are brilliant researchers and to write papers but suck at lecturing. But a prestigious professor makes the school prestigious which makes the degree prestigious which means bright people come to study there so the competition is hard and good grades a really good indicator you know your stuff. Some I even felt were counterproductive, I'd be better off studying the book for an hour than listening to the professor.

Re:People get weird with higher ed... (1)

game kid (805301) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841449)

To be fair, these are probably the same people who think today's (non-online) kindergarteners should somehow learn and score better than last year's K-ers, despite not being related to the prior class in any way and despite increasingly crushing tests and busywork that obstruct teaching.

Your own pace... is irrelevant (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45840909)

You can't do your job at your own pace, and college is supposed to prepare you for working life.

If you can't keep up in college, you won't be able to keep up in a job. Failing at college because of your inability to keep up should be taken as a sign that you aren't cut out for the job you're going for.

Not a failure rate... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | 1 year,29 days | (#45840941)

... online courseware is basically self-serve education. You take as much or as little as you want from it. Many people don't necessarily need to take a whole course they just want to explore certain topics at their leisure rather then under the gun of a deadline. I imagine that is what the 'high failure rate' is about. You can't look at it through traditional educational institutional lenses. It's more people just want to get their feet wet and don't know if they will have a lot of time to commit or of their interest/worth ethic is really that strong to self-educate. It's a hard road to do everything by yourself.

A lot of MOOCS (I hate that acro) are actually pretty bad. A MOOC should assume asbolutely no prior knowldge and direct the user where to begin. If there's anything I would have loved as a kid is a step-by-step guide to learn any topic from absolutely nothing.

Window shopping (1)

giorgist (1208992) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841089)

Is a shop a failure if only a tiny percentage of people looking at their window display actually buys something ? People who enrol have no skin on the commitment. That is all. If you can change that, then good on you. The courses are brilliant and for the few that pursue them and are inspired to go on to bigger and better things ... then they are incredible value for money for them and for society.

Too high success rates in conventional colleges! (1)

quax (19371) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841127)

Since the students are "customers" I find the high success rate in US colleges rather suspect.

In my experience European professors are far more inclined to fail students.

Learning at my own pace (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841163)

Having been diagnosed with ADHD in the 2nd grade, I really prefer these self paced courses because they suit my needs and I can be as anti-social as wanted. Yes I can be a real a** about things but I also enjoy learning new stuff but when real life issues such as diabetes prevents me from attending or my ADHD flares up and I'm not able to focus in a formal class, things go the crapper in a hurry and I loose interest.

Recently, I purchase one of those educational software kits for math and it's proving to be useful as I'm able to go at my own pace and when my concentration goes to hell, I can come back and revisit things again and again until I do get it and that's the same benefit a MOOC offers to me. Sure I may never complete the damn course but I'm at least taking the time to excersise my poor little brain instead of sitting in front of the Idiot Tube as so many do that it's not pitiful only because it's so fucking common.

MOOCs aren't for the students (1, Insightful)

rsilvergun (571051) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841201)

MOOCs exist to train cheap workers and (in the long run) to soak up gov't subsidies cheaply. Real learning is hard. It's a full time job. The assumption with a MOOC is the person is working a full time job already. Every real college I knew back in the day would politely tell students that they weren't gonna make it past year 2 while working full time. That's why we used to give students money while they went to school...

Re:MOOCs aren't for the students (1)

jma05 (897351) | 1 year,29 days | (#45842405)

> MOOCs exist to train cheap workers

Have you seen the courses (I am going by Coursera)? They are not vocational courses (aside from a programming course, here and there) for cheap workers. So far, the courses are most attractive to people with graduate degrees.

> Every real college I knew back in the day would politely tell students that they weren't gonna make it past year 2 while working full time.

That entirely depends on the college and the course. Colleges that target working professionals (I have been in those taken by Physicians while they work) allow adjusting the course load per quarter and simply run longer for them.

Re:MOOCs aren't for the students (1)

js_sebastian (946118) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844895)

MOOCs exist to train cheap workers and (in the long run) to soak up gov't subsidies cheaply.

Right, I'm sure the harvard class I'm taking on the ancient greek hero on edx is preparing me to be a tireless automaton working for the man!...

For me it is timing (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841241)

The only way I can fit in Coursera type courses is when I have regular blocks of time suddenly show up. Last year one of my daughters played Volleyball twice a week 3 hours each time. It was easier to drop her off, do some coursework, pick her up than to drive the long distance 4 times. So I knocked off 3 courses. Needless to say I signed up for many more and dropped all of them. Not because of any inherent problem with Coursera or the courses; just my schedule. So using my stats of completion/withdrawal would tell you almost nothing about the MOOCs and everything about my schedule.

You would think then that the unscheduled courses would fit my life better but there is something magical about deadlines and the knowledge that there are many other people working on the same things at the same time.

As for the quality of the courses they do vary with some great and some terrible. But the good to great seem to outnumber the terrible. But this is where it gets sort of interesting. Some of the best courses that are available are those from the Great Courses company. I have learned a ton from them but there is no satisfaction of completion with a nearly worthless certificate that I so look forward to receiving.

So my suspicion is that the courses of the future are going to be an interesting combination of those who teach and those who certify. If Stanford certifies that I know something do you really care where I learned it from? This would allow any jackass out there to put out a course which may or may not be great. Then through Darwinian selection (and marketing) the best will rise to the top. But it is basically impossible for any old jackass to make a certification that will be respected.

Of course this creates a "teach to the test" problem and certain areas of knowledge are very difficult to divorce from the teaching (creative writing, or art). But with many respected institutions potentially offering a certification you would have some competition among them to get it right.

A combination of respected certification and self learning could be a pretty heady combination.

MOOCs completed... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45841245)

To date, I've signed up for 5 MOOCs... and I've "successfully completed" one of them. That is, if you're measuring it from the aspect of whether I did the final exam and all the assignments.

IMHO, I've been successful at all 5 MOOC courses. I didn't sign up for them to earn a certificate or a grade. At my age, I couldn't care less about grades and marks. I signed up to learn something and in this context the appropriate question is "did I learn something?" - the answer is yes each time.

I don't have the time to stick to a 3-4hrs/week video lecture submit weekly assignments and essentially do everything a normal full-time student would do in the normal way. I do have time to do 10-20min videos a few times a week at my choosing, read the materials at my own pace - some weeks get nothing done and in other weeks get 10hrs of stuff done. The key here is - at my own pace. My full-time work is already 50-60/hrs per week. I don't get paid for overtime on my crappy salary and my employer is happy to remind me everyday that I can be replaced at their whim by some younger and dumber because "money matters here - not experience".

I do MOOCs because there is something in them that is interesting and that I want to learn. Just like I didn't sign up for karate because the coloured belts are so appealing and attractive to me. I simply wanted to learn and that is that.

Here's my question: why are so many MOOCs the same as academic courses? Why are video lectures so long? I've got kids - break the lectures into no more than 15-20min. Make better study notes available. Shorten the assignment questions - if I have to choose what to work on - your "interest" course or my job then you'll lose every time. Why are we doing weekly assignments anyways? Shorten the courses and make more of them - it comes down to who is your audience? Full-time students with nothing to do but study and drink beer or working professionals where they want to learn about your subject (otherwise why did they sign up) but have unforgiving careers/jobs and need to allocate their time appropriately.

I pass if I care ... (1)

Ricochet (16874) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841273)

... or to word it another way, if I paid for it, you bet I'll pass it!

I signed up for one of the early AI online course (it was free). I paid for the expensive but excellent AI textbook (Artificial_Intelligence_A_Modern_Approach). Excellent course, wish I could have completed it. Unfortunately my job changed and I was unable to finish the last half (still want to go back). I haven't been able to revisit the AI & ML course yet as I have a great deal of other material I need to work on (I've just completed reading my 5th book on comp. sci since September).

As an added note, I did get my BS/Comp Sci. degree online (just finished off the student loans - yea!) and I know what it takes to complete a real degree from a real school. I would have completed my MS in Comp Sci but I couldn't see a good rate of return on that investment. Really that's a shame as I did find some interesting programs.

I forget immediately (1)

DrEasy (559739) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841431)

I've taken a few MOOCs and even completed a few. My big problem is that pretty much as soon as I completed the course I forgot everything I'd learned. I have a couple of explanations as to why that is:

- MOOCs don't usually have a project component where you'd get direct feedback from a TA (that's obviously due to the number of people registered). This is changing as peer-assessments are being used more and more as a way to handle project grading.

- the course in question wasn't directly related to what I'm doing in my day job. During university, a course you're taking is at least often useful as a prerequisite for the next one.

- I'm getting old and stupid. Maybe just smart enough to complete the course but not enough to retain it? I wonder how much more I'd have retained, say, 10 years ago.

Moocs (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45841575)

I've signed up for many moocs, but have never finished one. I basically audit the classes and if there is anything interesting, I investigate further. I already have a PhD in computational physics (graduated in 2005) and I know many of my friends are doing exactly the same thing. Also, if you sign up for classes on Coursera you can still watch the videos even when the course is over. If you don't sign up, sometimes the videos are no longer accessible.

MOOCs Are A Failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45841689)

It is the MOOCs(Massive Open Online Courses) themselves that are a failure. The concept was flawed from the beginning and now you're forced to admit that they don't work, just like the Nancy Negatives that you so condescendingly dismissed tried to tell you.

Also, those that post stories without defining MOOCs are also failures. Douches too.

Sturgeon's law applies (1)

Entrope (68843) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841877)

Unless there is significant screening of participants -- in which case it isn't really a "MOOC" in the usual sense -- most of them will have little or no business taking the course. They may pick up a thing or two, but they won't get anything like the full benefit.

Consider the tech book (1)

sdhankin (213671) | 1 year,29 days | (#45841985)

I buy tech books often to teach myself about things I think will be useful at work. I do not read them cover to cover - I study the portions I'm interested in, those that may solve a perticular problem. I may return to them later to study another aspect that I need to know. I consider the money well spent if I'm able to learn what I need when I need to learn it. That's what I consider a valuable resource.

I've used several MOOCs in the same way. I've worked my way through the bulk of them without difficulty. But I never bothered to complete them. I learned what I needed to know and moved on. I consider these courses to be tremendously valuable resources. I just don't use them the way the designers expected me to.

That doesn't make them a failure. It just means that if you provide a great source of information for free to the net, people are going to use them in ways that make sense to them.

Many of them are crap (1, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | 1 year,29 days | (#45842523)

The big problem with Massive Open Online Courses is that, in most cases, the content is recycled lectures with no quality control. Stanford's machine learning course is mostly watching Andrew Ng at a blackboard, with bad handwriting. I watched a Khan Academy course on moments of inertia, and it was full of basic errors - clockwise and counterclockwise reversed, no distinction between a free body and a pinned one - errors likely to confuse anybody new to the subject.

Where's the post-production? Where's the production value? Where's the checking and Q/A? Of course students are dropping out and failing. The product quality sucks.

We have all this compute power and aren't using it to help with the process. Most of these "courses" are just streaming video with some textual material to go with it. We're not seeing systems where users solve problems and, when they get the wrong answer, the system tries to figure out what they did wrong and coach them. The Plato system did that in the 1960s. There have been systems for teaching programming which did that. But no, we just have lectures and texts.

if you want to see how to train people, look at the US military. The military has to train huge numbers of not-super-bright people in complex technical skills, and they've been doing it for decades with good success. Their approach isn't cheap; there are lots of visual aids, simulators, and setups for practicing skills. "Tell, then show, then do" is the mantra of military training.

Re:Many of them are crap (1)

miraculixx (3482637) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844511)

Dude, check out Andrew Ng's Coursera course before ranting about lack of post-production. This is no longer a blackboard video-taped version of his class but one that has been specifically tailored towards an MOOC audience, and it very much follows the "tell, show, do" mantra: https://class.coursera.org/ml-003/lecture/preview [coursera.org]

Many uses of MOOCs (2)

jma05 (897351) | 1 year,29 days | (#45842643)

This is how I approach MOOCs. They provide a lot of value for me, but I count as "failure" in all of them.

1.) Review: I have taken a similar course in the past. I just want to skim through the lectures to refresh some bits I have not used in a while.
2.) Partial: I know some of the course content well. But the course covers additional materials that I could benefit from.
3.) Busy: Course is offered at a time when I am busy. So I just download the materials for later use.
4.) Auditing: The course description looks enticing. I have no practical reason to take the course except for curiosity. I just want to watch lectures to get a feel for the domain, but otherwise am not so committed yet as to do homework.

Add to these factors that...
a.) MOOCs cost nothing to cheap (I just took the free ones so far). It is less of a risk to jump on board. I would think much more hard if I were paying say: $1500, like I have for live courses. So, sometimes I sign up for more than I can consume.
b.) MOOCs add to me as a person; just not as much to my resume. So I have no interest in their certifications and hence am not looking for course completions.

To me, MOOCs are a way of Universities fulfilling their institutional responsibility in bringing learning to the public. That goes beyond job skills.
MOOCs for me are not a replacement for a university life. But they provide a lot of value around its edges (prelude, supplement, refreshers etc). This is not to say anything about those who do make it into more of a replacement. I have seen some organize meetups and other parts of a learning experience that MOOCs cannot offer themselves.
MOOCs have redefined teaching to some extent. They should also redefine metrics. To some extent they have already.

I have one advise for them. Make the lecture videos available separately. Don't count those of us who just "enroll" to get these, the same way as those that want to do it more formally. We are not coming in for a full course experience to begin with. Just enroll those who want to take assignments on a schedule and get course completion certificates. Don't count anyone who has clicked enroll, but has not completed more than 1 assignment, as truly enrolled.

There is no such "revolution"... (1, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | 1 year,29 days | (#45842757)

... and hence it cannot "drift off course". Leaning is hard. Teaching is hard. The actual delivery method is mostly immaterial, "online" courses are not better than well-written textbooks. There is no space for "automation" here. What is better is face-to-face teaching by a really talented teacher, studying with like-minded other students, etc., but that is a thing that most of the proponents of online teaching do not understand. Knowing a few of them, my guess would be that they are pretty bad at face-to-face teaching as well.

As such, all this online teaching nonsense is basically hurting education, because it offers dysfunctional "alternatives" with a lot of hype surrounding them.

Re:There is no such "revolution"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843019)

I happen to like these "dysfunctional" alternatives (at least the courses that aren't garbage), precisely because they're not face-to-face. I'm an introvert, and I learn better on my own and do not care for traditional formal environments. At the very least, this sort of thing will be beneficial to motivated people who prefer to self-educate, like myself.

Re:There is no such "revolution"... (1)

gweihir (88907) | 1 year,28 days | (#45848937)

I completely understand. The thing to use for you are textbooks, augmented by exchanges with a competent distance-teacher (which is completely different from "online" teacher, and has been done successfully for a long time) and/or occasional meetings with other students of the same subject. No matter how bright, you can do only something like 80% on your own, the rest needs reflection by others and the rest is critical for the way from good to excellent. Also, representing your thoughts to others is a critical part of the learning experience and later, the use of your skills. There is no need to do it daily, but it should be a regular activity.

The problem is that creating online courses is not only inherently far more difficult than good textbooks, it is also far less understood by the people that do it and it demands far more of the student. And, depending on the subject, good textbooks can stay valid for years or even decades (and in rare cases a century or more, see some texts in mathematics), while online courses (beyond non-augmented video) run into technology-rot very fast.

Assuming Your Time is Worthless (2)

dcollins (135727) | 1 year,29 days | (#45842789)

Or rather, assuming that a million people's time is all worthless.

MOOCs have a host of problems. One of the most critical is that their business case relies on serving the millions of students who fail at remedial math and language-arts and can't get started in college. But this goal flies in the face of a mountain of scientific research that those students are the most helpless in this (self-driven, hi-tech) context; those students need personal interventions, counseling, and tutors. The fact that MOOCs provably don't work for the unwashed masses mean MOOCs don't really have a business case.

I think that MOOCs will go the same way as the correspondence course boom of about a century ago. But apparently every school needs to re-learn the lesson for themselves, scientific evidence be damned. Reminds me a lot of all the game companies that crashed trying to make the next WOW about a decade back.

Re:Assuming Your Time is Worthless (1)

miraculixx (3482637) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844551)

clearly you are looking at this from the perspective of relatively wealthy, well educated member of the middle classes. Not everyone who did not attend a college is dumb. Some simply did not have the chance, and MOOCs offer them a chance to take up on knowledge they would otherwise not be able to acquire. Re the business models, let the MOOC providers figure that one out.

Keep at it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45842803)

To all institution who offer MOOC, please keep at it. I'm absolutely sure this is the future.

Pay for Degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45842959)

I think there are a lot of costly university courses where you're basically paying for your degree with no real chance of failing short of not completing your assignments.

Goa4t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843027)

another thing to consider (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843085)

is that many colleges pass students who don't deserve to pass. Personally, I am responsible for managing many software developers (contractors) at my firm and I can assert that having a college degree in computer science, although it helps, is not the most important criterion in determining competence as a developer. I have taken a few of Udacityâ(TM)s CS classes and found them to be very good. The critical question is, how does a Udacity certification stack up against a college degree? Personally, I would hire someone who could pass the second level Udacity CS classes (and got the certification) because I know the level of skill required to pass, I can't say that about every CS degree. I'm sure most CS degrees are good, but I know of quite a few, even from good schools like the University of Maryland, who should never have been allowed to graduate.

About Failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843363)

The implication here is that MOOC are a failed concept.
The focus here should be on process.
Very few worthwhile things are accomplished on the first attempt.
MOOGS will evolve both in what they are and what they attempt.
Something similar could be said about how each student will respond to this experience. What will he attempt the next time? What effect will his first attempt have on his future efforts? It's his trajectory we should be talking about not a single event.

Wait 10 years before deciding wether MOOC are worthwhile.

You can't beat free ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843545)

How can anyone complain about something that's free ? Granted, if you are looking for credentials, MOOCs are not the way to go. But if you are interested in learning, how can you lose ? The first MOOC took was Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course from Stanford. I have to say it was over my head. But it was a great experience. Since then, I've taken a few more, and expect to get my second Statement of Accomplishment for Jeff Leek's Data Analysis course. I really see no downside.

Re:You can't beat free ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844415)

Most of the courses provided never explicitly mention the license, but I suspect (from the general ToS) that they are free as in beer not free as in speech. For instance, most MOOC platforms give you access to particular course registration only during some fixed term. You are out of luck if you are busy at that particular time, but would love to learn the material say during next holidays.

Feature... (1)

pr100 (653298) | 1 year,29 days | (#45843569)

I've completed quite a few of these courses. I've also bailed out of a couple. One because I was doing 3 or 4 at the same time and I realised that I didn't have time to do them all properly. Another because I started a real world full time course and that took up all my spare time.

Feature. Not bug. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45843609)

Online education is a great idea. Students particularly young ones have short attention spans and problems sticking it through, so on online, especially online, they need handholding.

For mature age we'd like handholding too, but of course that would come at a price. It's sure too expensive to take on a whole new university course mid-life, so what I did is free-as-a-bird learn was choose my own course: pick courses lectures and get into a routine of watching them, studying hard from the associated text. Plenty of second hand older edition texts too from betterworldbooks or if you live outside the US cheap new text books. Sometimes I'd flit around; If I didn't understand one lecturer or course, I'd switch to another to get the concept. Besides, online learning is just a new take on learning by reading anyway and that's old as the hills.

I would have loved some help studying, and wouldn't have minded paying a bit for it, but when your mature age you have work, kids and other responsibilities so study is a lower priority. Paying $$$ on the assumption you'll have the time isn't realistic. Sometimes you have to drop it for a while and come back later.

But if you have the guts and determination you *can* do it. I was able educate myself in a whole new area for very little cost.

My new skills don't have a diploma so if I was a fresh grad that would have been a problem, but I'm not and could transition into a new job using my computing skills as a stepping stone. In real life, you keep learning after university anyway. Online learning gives you a bigger pick of what you can learn.

i dropped out because (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844031)

There's no point. At the end you get a 100% useless certificate. I learned the material but had no incentive to follow through with it.

Failure or Novelty (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844061)

I signed up for a few MOOC because of the novelty. I also listed all courses and subscribed to most of them because I didn't want to miss anything.
I think the novelty of MOOC played a role in the failure rate, because a lot of people join for the sole purpose of not missing out. When you later have time, you would then concentrate on the 20% of courses that you are really interested in.

Re:Failure or Novelty (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844403)

Yeah, but usually you don't really know, which are the 20% that interest you enough, to finish them before you peek inside.

JMCR (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844355)

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It's all about registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45844397)

If only these MOOC wouldn't be so strict about registration and would allow me to peek what's inside without creating account & "taking" the class officcialy, I wouldn't be contributing to those dropout rates. I suspect a lot of people want to aren't serious and/or just don't have enough time to finish everything in time, but are glad that such a free (as in beer) education exists. I play videolectures from Coursera as a background music/noise, but I never did any homeworks or took any tests.

Be a MOOC lover, not a hater! (3, Interesting)

eatvegetables (914186) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844523)

What an abhorrently overly simplistic question. Really? MOOCs provide an abundance of value to the curious mind. Many participants, I assume, are very much like me. They occasionally complete an entire course, but only sample sections of most. I'd much rather watch a great set of lectures on neural networks during my down time than watch the crap that passes for entertainment on broadcast and cable television. Moreover, experimentation in format and content delivery will most certainly transform more formal education services for the better. Rock on MOOCs and those who love them.

Feature (1)

rastos1 (601318) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844791)

I completed 7 courses and intend to do several more. My scores are above 80% in all of them. My experience is following (in no particular order):

  • There are people from all backgrounds and ages. The youngest that I've seen is 11, the oldest ... probably somewhere around 70. If you expect the audience to be the same age demography as classic face-to-face school, then you are wrong. That, of course, translates to different self-discipline and overall approach.
  • The quality of the course varies wildly. From excellent courses with fast pace, great explanations, good communication all the way down to bad video/sound quality, amateurish edit, no communication, insufficient explanations, ...
  • People are not used to communicate in a discussion forum. Many (80%?) do not join the forums at all. Those that do, don't know how to describe the problem. How to search for solution in the forum or on the web. How to let everybody else to know about the solution they've found. Etc, etc.
  • Every student is very grateful for having the chance. Course criticism if often down-modded regardless of substance ;-)
  • Unrealistic expectations. The most popular thread on some "intro to Android" course has title "Anyone else dreaming of getting rich from apps?" with students left and right talking about how they dream to be next Zuckerberg. How they are going to write a game or medical app without any prior CS experience etc.
  • As several others pointed out - many people just join and see whether they like the course or not. There is no harm in doing that, so why not?
  • Many people are not self-motivated enough - I've seen a a course where after 12 weeks of lectures and another 8 weeks (with Christmas holidays included) of no course activity at all, people asked for more time because they did not had enough time to complete the course.

My view is: it's a resource that is available at minimal cost. I'm going to use it as long as it lasts. If I know about the topic enough to help others, then I'm going to help them too. It's more useful than posting on slashdot ;-)

Btw, some interesting statistics on completion/enrollment rate can be found here [katyjordan.com]

Speaking as a MooC addict... (2)

joeblog (2655375) | 1 year,29 days | (#45844891)

As someone who is always trying to get other people to share my love of MooCs (I've completed about 30) with mixed success, I've found they shine at "puzzle oriented" subjects, but not so well on humanities.

A lot of my enjoyment of MooCs comes from how sophisticated their grading technology is. One of my favorites was Software as a Service, initially offered on Coursera and then moved to edx. The grader didn't simply mark your program as right or wrong, but turned it into a challenging game by forcing you to get the final few marks by tweeking the code for subtle tests. This drove the advantages of test driven development home in a practical way. Learning software development this way turns it into a fun challenge like doing a crossword, sodoku or some other kind of puzzle. Nobody enjoys watching someone scribble maths on a blackboard, while everyone enjoys solving puzzles -- and that's what makes MooCs so much better at teaching "puzzle oriented" subjects.

The MooCs I've enjoyed least have involved peer reviewed essays. The early ones I did forced students to explain the reasoning for their marks, so if you got a bad mark at least you got a clue on how competent your "peer" was. But later ones did not include a feature to leaves comment, and I now tend to ditch those since it's infuriating to get a bad mark for hard work without any explanation.

The quality of MooCs varies considerably. The first one I did -- Stanford's Introduction to Database course -- was fantastic and has kept me enrolling for more. Unfortunately, some are duds and people who start with those don't become MooC addicts.

Hey Subtard, how about a definition (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45845665)

You may wax poetic all day long about MOOC and have MOOC luncheons and really work hard on your Chocolate Chip MOOCIES but for those folks who don't know what MOOC is, it's kind of inconsiderate.

Failure is expected-- neither bug nor feature (1)

eepok (545733) | 1 year,29 days | (#45846897)

I've been one of the few people Slashdot railing against the massive social investment and expectations that are being hyped by the purveyors of MOOCs.

I think they're great for those who are simply seeking casual education, but they should never, EVER be expected to be a substitute for concentrated education as our K-12 and higher education systems are intended to function.

With that in mind, then the massive failure rates shouldn't be considered a bug or feature but simply "expected". It's expected that people will sign up and learn some stuff, but if they're neither sufficiently engaged nor forced to attend, learn, and prove learning, they'll just quit. Or cheat to whatever end.

MOOCs are good. Heck, they're great. Just don't expect them to replace our classic education structure. Educating the masses per the needs of our society takes hard work, time, space, and money. MOOCs won't change that, but they will help those with sufficient intrinsic motivation to learn even more.

Human contact is still the most effective method (1)

plopez (54068) | 1 year,29 days | (#45847253)

Of teaching. Face-to-face and if possible one-on-one tutoring. That allows the instructor to adapt lessons to one individual. The massive online courses is just a way to provide a cheap and industrial paradigm, "pump out the product", approach to teaching. This approach has been tried and failed many times in the past. But administrators like it because it is cheap.

Where MOOCs are valuable are in situations where access to classroom time is unavailable, i.e. remote areas far from classrooms.

MOOCsOnline learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#45847293)

As someone who works in the area of online learning, I'd like to comment on the current usage of MOOC as being a synonym for online learning. There are actually lots of different kinds of online learning from synchronous online learning using chat spaces, virtual worlds or videoconferencing, to asynchronous text-based online learning and others. Using the terms MOOC and online learning as synonyms simply confuses the issue and implies that all online learning has the same failure rate and problems as MOOCs do. It's simply not true.

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