Results From the First-Year Course MOOCs: Not There Yet

Results From the First-Year Course MOOCs: Not There Yet

Now that the empirical results from the first set of MOOCs for intro courses are in, it’s worth considering how they’re doing when it comes to teaching students computer science. Since many of the leaders of the MOOC movement came out of computer science, many of the first generation of MOOCs focused on teaching computer science and many of the earliest MOOC evaluations were expert reviews from other computer science specialists. The new empirical results appear to tell a different story.

  • What the latest results show is that these MOOCs have relatively low course completion numbers, as well as a growing student gender gap.
  • In most cases, it appears that only 10% of students that start a MOOC course also end up completing it.
  • Some students struggle with technology, such as assignments in which they are asked to create a video presentation. In other cases, there are no formal mechanisms for doing peer review after an assignment’s due date has passed.
  • Other empirical studies add another level of sophistication to measuring MOOC success by also integrating standardized tests for measuring course knowledge, both before and after the course. What’s clear is that just being a completer doesn’t mean that anything was learned.
  • One other finding is that, the more advanced the course, the better the completion rate. Students that come in with more advanced knowledge of a topic are typically more motivated to complete a MOOC than those who don’t.
  • Researchers also concur that what matters most is how hard students work. Measures of student effort trump all other variables tested for their relationships to student success, including demographic descriptions of the students, course subject matter, and student use of support services.
  • Judging by the demographic representation in most courses, MOOCs are not yet succeeding at their goal of democratizing education. The empirical findings suggest that MOOCs draw mostly men who already hold degrees and are overwhelmingly from the U.S. and the developed world.
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