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Education The Internet

Are High MOOC Failure Rates a Bug Or a Feature? 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-wouldn't-try-fixing-it-with-code dept.
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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Are High MOOC Failure Rates a Bug Or a Feature?

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:29PM (#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 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.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:45PM (#45841375) Journal

        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.

        • by gwolf (26339)

          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

      • 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 be

    • 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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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

        • 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 m

          • 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
      • Re:Curious (Score:5, Informative)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:07PM (#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.

      • by tverbeek (457094)
        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 instruct
        • by Anitra (99093)

          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).

    • 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

    • Life happens. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:13PM (#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.

      • by Alioth (221270)

        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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cattrance (1537577)

      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

    • by HJED (1304957)
      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 t
    • 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

      • by Quirkz (1206400)

        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.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:29PM (#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.

  • by KFW (3689) * on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:30PM (#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

    • 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...

    • by fermion (181285)
      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 arbi
  • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:32PM (#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.

    G.

    • by plopez (54068)

      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.

  • 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.

  • by ebonum (830686) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:37PM (#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.

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

      • by eepok (545733)

        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

        • 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.

          • by eepok (545733)

            You and I, I think, have a similar opinion, but I don't think we agree on the root problem. We both think that schools are not performing to our expectations, but you seem to think it's because teachers want to teach poorly. I assert that many teachers must teach poorly (rote memorization, teaching to the test) because they have too much to do in such little time with very high expectations. They're not conflicting opinions, but related.

            You'd be surprised just how many teachers **don't like** teaching to th

            • but you seem to think it's because teachers want to teach poorly.

              No. I think many of them don't know how to teach, or have a flawed view of what education is. Most people seem to actually believe that rote memorization is a good thing, think the solution is more tests, or think that merely eliminating most of the testing would fix the problem.

  • WTF is MOOC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by csumpi (2258986) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:37PM (#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.
    • by theodp (442580)

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

    • What the fuck is WTF?
  • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:38PM (#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 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 hav

      • 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

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

    • by mx+b (2078162) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:09PM (#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.

      • 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.
      • by Kjella (173770)

        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 bet

    • by game kid (805301)

      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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • ... 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 o

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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...
    • by jma05 (897351)

      > 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

    • 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!...

  • 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 wo
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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

  • ... 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 complete

  • 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 d
  • 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.

  • 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.

    • I see them in the exact same way. MOOCs make excellent reference material: complete with how-to videos and explanations. If you're really lucky, you get one under git versioning control.
  • by Animats (122034)

    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 th

    • 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]
  • by jma05 (897351) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:43PM (#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.

  • ... 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-f

  • by dcollins (135727) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @12:11AM (#45842789) Homepage

    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.

    • 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.
    • by LienRag (1787684)
      The correspondance boom you're referring to may have faded, but correspondance courses are still around and very useful for who has time (and the right skills) to devote to them.
      MOOCs are not a magic ticket to universal academic success, but they are at least highly improved correspondance courses.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 w

  • 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.

  • by eatvegetables (914186) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @08:33AM (#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.
  • 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 excel
  • 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 t

  • 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 peo

  • 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.

  • I finished one, am halfway through another and signed up for another about two months ago that I haven't actually started yet, but intend to. It probably counts as 1 finished and 2 incomplete, but given time I will complete the other two.
  • I'll often join a MOOC that is already well in progress (even after they are complete), take what information I wish to learn from it, and then never return. I do, however, still leave it registered in case I need to refer to it at a later point. With no pressure to simply pass, I take what I need, the pass be damned.

My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income. -- Errol Flynn Any man who has $10,000 left when he dies is a failure. -- Errol Flynn

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