The first MOOCs have produced abundant data about students and learning behaviors, and perhaps even more press coverage about what it all means for the future of education.
Take the oft-discussed low completion rates of most MOOCs. Christine Nasserghodsi’s recent piece in HuffPost Education highlights how, for many students, completing a course is really not the goal…and that should be just fine.
…[C]ompletion rates only tell part of the story. I asked several high school students who enrolled in MOOCs whether or not they earned certificates. Each and every one said they had not, and yet they did not classify themselves as having dropped out of the MOOC. They simply explained that it didn’t matter. They signed up for pre-exam preparation, curriculum enrichment, or out of a personal interest. Their goals did not involve earning a certificate. As Justin Reigh and Andrew Ho wrote in their 2014 Atlantic article, “The Tricky Task of Figuring Out What Makes a MOOC Successful,”
“Our data show that many who register for HarvardX courses are engaging substantially in courses without earning a certificate. In these courses, ‘dropping out’ is not a breach of expectations but the natural result of an open, free, and asynchronous registration process, where students get just as much as they wish out of a course and registering for a course does not imply a commitment to completing it.”
If learning about specific things on your own schedule is more important to you than completing courses, you’ve not alone. Indeed, Reigh and Ho suggests you are central to the future of learning:
…[O]ur research describes an emerging learning ecosystem, one where enrollment can be casual and nonbinding, learning happens asynchronously, and registrants come from all countries in the world, with diverse intentions and patterns of learning.
These qualities — casual and nonbinding, asychronous, global — describe the learning mission we’ve always had at MIT OpenCourseWare. Start by finding your topic or search among the thousands of always-available courses and resources on OCW. Dive in, explore, bookmark and return later, even download the materials for future use. All with no registration required.
Meanwhile, with more MOOCs being offered every month, chances get better all the time that you’ll also find an edX course to complement what you’ve found on OCW. Don’t be shy about registering, and simply use the bits that appeal to you. You’ll have lots of company!