A nice piece from last week looking at why students enroll in MOOCs:

Less than 10 percent of MOOC students, on average, complete a course. That’s the conclusion of Katy Jordan of Open University, who published her analysis, pulled together from available data of some Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

But do completion rates matter?
It’s not that course completion rates don’t inform observers about the nature of MOOCs, said Michelle Rhee-Weise, who follows higher-ed developments in online and blended learning as an education senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (formerly Innosight Institute). But with no negative academic consequences from dropping out, that information is less about the effectiveness of the courses themselves, and more about the reasons people might be enrolling, she said.

Among those reasons:

  1. Just because MOOCs give free access to higher education courses doesn’t mean their work is being ignored by the for-profit sector of an online learning industry estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Rhee-Weise said. That can make MOOCs a fruitful observation ground for those who are looking for ideas to infuse into their own online learning efforts.

  2. “If you just think about the openness of these platforms, there are people who just want to see what’s going on, see how others teach the same subjects they do, as well as competitors who might want to steal some ideas and use them in their own platforms,” said Rhee-Weise, who said she has enrolled in a handful of MOOCs for research purposes without intentions of completing them.

  3. There is a range of data that shows students enrolled in MOOCs and in other online post-secondary courses skew far older than the traditional on-campus college student. In online degree programs, that phenomenon often relates to professionals looking to change careers, get promoted within their current one with the attainment of an additional degree, or merely weave new skills into their work. Read more.