Much ado about MOOC?

India must  learn from the  hicups of early movers in MOOC, in crafting its own online education initiatives

Bangalore, January 1 2013: Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) have captured the imagination of educational authorities worldwide: what was a germ of an idea three years ago is a huge industry today... millions of students; thousands of online courses on offer; hundreds of participating institutions. taken higher education by storm. Both hopes and hype were high. A year ago this month, Thomas Friedman wrote in a New York Times opinion piece "Revolution hits the universities: "Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty…Nothing has more potential to unlock abillion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems…than the massive open online course."

Now studies suggest the reality may be a bit more sobering. Data from a University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) study released in December at the MOOC Research Initiative Conference in Texas, shows that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user “engagement” falls off dramatically—especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course—and that few users persist to the course end. The Penn GSE study analyzed the movement of a million users through sixteen Coursera courses offered by the University of Pennsylvania from June 2012 to June 2013. The project aimed to identify key transition points for users – such as when users enter and leave courses – as well as when and how users participate in the courses. The study also considered how engagement and persistence vary based on various course characteristics. Key findings:

• Course completion rates are very low, averaging 4% across all courses and ranging from 2% to 14% depending on the course and measurement of completion.
• Across the 16 courses, completion rates are somewhat higher, on average, for courses with lower workloads for students and fewer homework assignments (about 6% versus 2.5%).

A New York Times story   quotes another the University of Pennsylvania report released last month that found that about 80 percent of those taking the university’s MOOCs had already earned a degree of some kind. This report (The MOOC Phenomenon: Who Takes Massive Open Online Courses and Why?) was based on an online survey of students enrolled in at least one of the University of Pennsylvania’s 32 MOOCs offered on the Coursera platform. It finds:
The student population tends to be young, well educated, and employed, with a majority from developed countries. There are significantly more males than females taking MOOCs, especially in BRIC and other developing countries. Students’ main reasons for taking a MOOC are advancing in their current job and satisfying curiosity. The individuals the MOOC revolution is supposed to help the most — those without access to higher education in developing countries — are underrepresented among the early adopters.

NYT reports that the the most publicized MOOC experiment, at San Jose State University was being seen as a flop: online students fared worse than a similar batch who took regular classes.
However San Jose has found better success by adding video instruction from EdX, a nonprofit MOOC venture started by Anant Agarwal (professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, a Ph.D. from Stanford and a bachelor's from IIT Madras) to supplement some classroom sessions.
Some MOOC pioneers are working with a different model, so-called connectivist MOOCs, which are more about the connections and communication among students than about the content delivered by a professor. Others are trying to infuse adaptive learning into MOOC, so that it can give each student a personal experience.”
The lessons for us in India? Let's learn from the early players in MOOC, profit from their experience and tweak our own MOOC initiatives so that we dont repeat the mistakes of the pioneers
“It’s like, a professor quoted by NYT says: ‘The MOOC is dead, long live the MOOC!’