Education ForumScience Education

The MOOC pivot

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Science  11 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6423, pp. 130-131
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav7958

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Summary

When massive open online courses (MOOCs) first captured global attention in 2012, advocates imagined a disruptive transformation in postsecondary education. Video lectures from the world's best professors could be broadcast to the farthest reaches of the networked world, and students could demonstrate proficiency using innovative computer-graded assessments, even in places with limited access to traditional education. But after promising a reordering of higher education, we see the field instead coalescing around a different, much older business model: helping universities outsource their online master's degrees for professionals (1). To better understand the reasons for this shift, we highlight three patterns emerging from data on MOOCs provided by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) via the edX platform: The vast majority of MOOC learners never return after their first year, the growth in MOOC participation has been concentrated almost entirely in the world's most affluent countries, and the bane of MOOCs—low completion rates (2)—has not improved over 6 years.

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