Dropouts from online courses

It is perhaps no longer a surprise that students who enroll in online courses or MOOCs (Massively open online courses), very few make it to the end. But at what threshold could one speak of failure? For the first time, a study provides figures that suggest that MOOCs have become something different than originally announced.

Their promise was free access to quality education for the entire planet. Rather, they have become a technical tool for educational institutions that want to offer online courses. Two researchers from the Instructional Systems Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Justin Reich and José A. Ruipérez-Valiente, describe this in the journal Science six years – from 2012 to 2018 – with 12.6 million registrations.

The key finding behind this data is not that only a small portion of these students intended to earn a degree. In fact, the proportion of those who have completed their training has fallen from year to year. Including those who had paid to attend so-called “verified” courses, although in their case the decline was only observed last year.

In numbers: Of all those registered, 6% had completed their training in 2013-2014, compared to 3.13% in the previous year. For those “verified,” the percentage rose from 50 to 56% between 2014-2015 and 2016-2017 and fell to 46% last year.

And the low return rate is also worrying: of 1.1 million students who enrolled for the first time in 2015/16, only 12% were enrolled again the following year. This “response rate” has been declining since the second year of the program (when it was 38%).

The authors conclude with a lesson of caution for academia: Democratization of higher education cannot simply rely on new technologies, be they virtual reality or artificial intelligence. “Significantly expanding educational opportunities for underserved populations requires policy efforts to change the direction, funding, and goals of higher education. »

To watch in the video

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