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Low Completion Rates Are Proving MOOCs Still Have A Long Way To Go

Posted by Katie FitzGerald on Sep 12, 2013 4:30:47 AM

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs for short) are online courses offered by professors from prestigious universities and colleges around the world through a third party platform and are single handedly changing the way many view higher education. While there are many controversial aspects of MOOCs, one of the biggest concerns are the incredibly low completion rates these courses are receiving. The average MOOC completion rate is below 7%, and in some severe cases as low as 0.9%. This low rate of completion causes many professors to wonder if constructing a MOOC is even worth the hassle.

The low completion rates of these MOOC classes truly are staggering. An interactive article from titled MOOC Completion Rates: The Data has an interactive graph that shows these ridiculously low completion rates on both an international and local scale.

Internationally the completion rates of MOOCs are much higher than in the United States. The MOOC with the highest completion rate of 50.7% was offered from École Centrale de Lille, a French school of science and technology, through and was titled ABC de la Gestion de Project. The University of Edinburgh’s course titled Equine Nutrition had a 36.1% completion rate and their course titled Astrobiology had a 19.5% completion rate. While the completion rates of these overseas schools may seem low, they are actually very high when compared to the MOOCs offered through universities in the United States.

The highest American MOOC completion rate comes from UC Berkeley’s class called Stat2.1x Introduction to Statistics, which was offered through the third party platform EdX. This statistics class, which had 52,661 students enrolled, only had a 15.5% completion rate equating to 8,181 students. Stanford University ran two separate courses, Introduction to Machine Learning through third party platform Coursera and Introduction to Artificial Intelligence through the third party platform Udacity, that both received only a 12.5% completion rate.

Some of the lowest American MOOC completion rates hit numbers as low as 0.9%. Duke University’s course A Beginner’s Guide To Irrational Behavior, offered through Coursera, had a promising 142,839 students enrolled, but only a mere 2.7% or 3,892 students actually completed the course. Duke University’s course Medical Neuroscience, offered through Coursera, had a wimpy 1.7% or 756 students out of the 44,980 enrolled complete the course. The lowest completion rate was from a Harvard course ran through EdX titled CS50X Introduction to Computer Science 1. This course only had a 0.9% completion rate, meaning out of the 150,349 students registered only 1,388 actually completed the class.

The reasons why many enrolled students do not complete their MOOC vary by the course and the student. Some students cannot thrive in the impersonal setting of the online classroom, while others are not organized enough to keep track of their online work, but one common reason is that many students simply register in order to explore the MOOC with no intentions of actually taking the class. Regardless of the reason for these low completion rates, professors and third party MOOC platforms need to find a better way to keep enrolled students motivated or the entire MOOC system will prove to be a failure. These shockingly low completion rates beg the question, are MOOCs actually the way higher education will be in the future or are they just a passing fad?



Author: Katie FitzGerald is our Fall Community Manager here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

photo credit: mrehan via photopin cc

Topics: higher education

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