Monday, April 29, 2013

Why people register for MOOCs (moving beyond completion rate)

People take MOOCs for many different reasons. I believe that a lot of this is getting lost in the news about MOOCs' dismal completion rates (approximately 5-15% of registrants).

What if my goal is to learn a specific thing, I complete the lesson or activity related to that topic, and then I go on my merry way, happy to have learned something new? What if I wanted to learn one new thing about a topic? I have friends and relatives who wanted to learn a few new tips and tricks from Power Searching with Google and walked away happy from the course even though they did not earn a certificate of completion.

What if my goal is to earn a certificate of completion without completing any of the course work? What if my goal is to meet someone who likes to learn about similar topics?

Phil Hill summarizes student patterns in his post at e-Literate. We have seen similar categories of students in our MOOCs.

I would love to be able to say that 95% of students met their goals in an online course instead of merely reporting that 10% of students who registered completed the course.

Implications for MOOC instructional design

  • Make it easy for students to access specific pieces of information by providing a clear outline with links to specific videos and activities.  
  • Clearly communicate the objectives and agenda of videos and activities so that students can pick and choose which ones interest them. 
  • Provide a text alternative to videos so students can skim through and/or search for information that interests them.
  • Provide alternative paths for students to follow; maybe there is a "fast track" or an "explorers track" that consist of different lessons.

Areas for future research
I think we need to better understand our students and their goals. How aware of their goals are students when they register? How do we recognize different goals as legitimate? More importantly, how do we change the design of our courses to help students meet their goals?