Ongoing coverage of MOOCs: How good are they really?

This trend is now unstoppable – massive open online courses – or MOOCs – are constantly in the news. The angle often seems to be about whether or how or how much they will impact higher education and education in general. It’s a topic I am very interested in.

Here’s another piece of the puzzle, this time from the New York Times. In this article a reporter signs up for ten different online courses in a quest to assess from his personal experience along these dimensions:

  • Professors: B+
  • Convenience: A
  • Teacher to student interaction: D
  • Student to student interaction: B-
  • Assignments: B-
  • Overall experience: B

His telling comments about the convenience factor:

“Regardless of the convenience, you still have to carve out time for the lectures. Which is one reason the dropout rate for MOOCs is notoriously high: Coursera’s bioelectricity course, taught by a Duke professor, saw an astounding 97 percent of students fail to finish. My dropout rate was lower, but only a bit. I signed up for 11 courses, and finished 2: “Introduction to Philosophy” and “The Modern World: Global History since 1760.” (Well, to be honest, I’m not quite done with history — I’m still stuck in the 1980s.) Not coincidentally, these were two courses with lighter workloads and less jargon.” (from NYT: Grading the MOOC University)