Falling through the cracks in a MOOC 2


It’s Monday, the start of a new semester and academic year at Ohio Wesleyan, our busiest time of the year. It’s also the start of week 4–the final week–in Foundations for Teaching for Learning, the Coursera course I’ve got to be failing because I’ve been so busy with other job-related duties and obligations.

And this situation points out one of the biggest failures with MOOCs: the staggeringly high drop-out rate. Reported by Inside Higher Ed in March, it was around 90%! Because MOOCs are using a 1 to many (hundreds of thousands in many cases) or hierarchical pedagogical model, it’s nearly or probably impossible for one instructor to keep tabs on so many students, and there doesn’t seem to be any process or structure in place for getting students to keep tabs on other students. If one fails to watch the course videos and/or turn in the assignments it goes unnoticed by other students, the instructor, and any of the MOOC administrators. I failed to receive any inquiry as to what was going on and why I wasn’t participating. Furthermore, the discussion forum threads that I posted to and subscribed to haven’t seen any other activity–If they had I would have received an email notification. This makes succeeding at a MOOC entirely up to the student and their own gumption. Free to all, but we have to do it all on our own. The MOOC just puts it all out there for anyone to access (if they sign up for it) and pursue on their own. In other words, it’s like an online video tutorial unless you make some friends in the class and share the journey with them. If you don’t, you’re completely on your own.

I’m intrigued by an alternative, the DOCC proposed by FemTechNet. Instead of a massively open online course, it’s a Distributed Online Collaborative Course. As Anne Balsamo, co-facilitator of the first DOCC and Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York,  says, “Who you learn with is as important as what you learn.”


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2 thoughts on “Falling through the cracks in a MOOC

  • Dan Storrs

    The tenor of your comment seems defensive of the status quo. A consensus seems to be forming that student’s return on investment is too low to continue as is.

  • David Soliday Post author

    Thanks for your comment, Dan.

    On rereading, I can see how the bulk of my post may seem that like I’m defending the status quo. I’m also familiar with the signs of “the higher ed bubble” to which you refer.

    On the other hand, what I’m really trying to promote is good teaching and learning experiences, where there is ample interest by the teacher in the experience of the learner, and vice versa. When there is such mutual regard, an instructor will ask a student why they haven’t been participating. Likewise, a student might ask clarifying questions of the instructor or provide candid feedback that the lecture was dull. This aspect of relationships between members of the learning community can be done in a MOOC, and I have shared my experience in such a situation in later posts. See the #BlendKit2014 tag.