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Measuring the Success of Online Education

Take a look at just about any academic or technology related site and you’ll more than likely find an article on MOOCs. As you should, they’re all the rage. It is an exciting time for academic technology. As the internet continues to evolve, so does our capability and with it, opportunities to blend those new capabilities. But despite these new and exciting potentials, the question remains… just how effective are MOOCs compared to the actual classroom?

The New York Times posted an article with this question in mind.

“One of the dirty secrets about MOOCs — massive open online courses — is that they are not very effective, at least if you measure effectiveness in terms of completion rates.

If as few as 20 percent of students finishing an online course is considered a wild success and 10 percent and lower is standard, then it would appear that MOOCs are still more of a hobby than a viable alternative to traditional classroom education.

Backers reason that the law of large numbers argues in favor of the online courses that have rapidly come to be seen as the vehicle for the Internet’s next big disruption — colleges. If 100,000 students take a free online course and only 5,000 complete it, that is still a significant number.

However, MOOCs are a moving target. Because they are computerized and networked they offer an ideal medium for quantifying what works and what doesn’t. Earlier this week, when San Jose State University in California announced that it was contracting with MOOC-developer Udacity to create three pilot classes, they noted that the National Science Foundation had agreed to fund research to study the impact of the classes.

Udacity, along with other MOOC designers, is moving rapidly away from the video lecture model of teaching toward an approach that is highly interactive and based on frequent quizzes and human “mentors” to provide active online support for students.

Moreover, there are early indications that the high interactivity and personalized feedback of online education might ultimately offer a learning structure that can’t be matched by the traditional classroom.”

Continue reading the full article here


  1. wtaylor says:

    Speaking of MOOCs, NYT reported today that a few universities will be offering MOOC introductory courses for credit in the hopes that students will want to continue with the program and pay for the rest of the courses and get a degree.
    It seems that education is slowly looking at what Chris Anderson described in the book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price,” which incidentally, the author offered for free for quite a while on his website, Yes, he didn’t charge for his book.

  2. The old online model didn’t work as well. The new style of online education is really working because that engagement is really making students develop. I see online education expanding into high schools rapidly soon. Way exciting!

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