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MOOCs vs. Distance Learning, Who Will Come Out On Top?

Posted by Katie FitzGerald on Sep 25, 2013 5:19:45 AM

The introduction of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) startled the world of higher education and many students and professors wondered if these free courses would make traditional higher education obsolete. The low completion rates of these MOOCs coupled with their low retention rates and general lack of interest have proven that MOOCs will not overshadow higher education in the short term. Interestingly private online courses offered through universities that require tuition are flourishing proving that online courses can be successful. While it seems that the for-credit private online courses are the more successful option with some changes to MOOCs who knows? These MOOCs could easily compete with traditional higher education models and win in retention rates, completion rates and overall general interest.

When compared to the traditional physical classroom private online classes are inferior, but when compared with MOOCs these private online classes prove to have higher retention rates and completion rates. Many hypothesize that the reason is because with private online classes one must be accepted into the college and pay tuition, while in a MOOC one simply signs up. The simple fact of losing money encourages many to complete and succeed in their online courses. Another reason private online classes work better than MOOCs is because these online classes give a student credit upon completion of the course, while MOOCs simply give a certificate of completion.

A growing number of state universities and private colleges have begun to add private online courses or distance learning to their undergraduate and graduate curriculums giving students the option of taking summer classes from home or being able to work and take class simultaneously. Auburn University offers over 40 distance learning courses, which is nothing compared to the University of Florida who doubles the amount of classes they offer with 83 private online courses. Ivy league schools also have embraced for-credit distance learning. Harvard, for example, offers for-credit online classes in three different formats. First, there are video courses, which are available online with a class that meets physically once a week or just online only. Secondly, there are live web-conference courses that have a scheduled time each week. Third, there are hybrid courses that combine an intensive weekend session on campus with live web conferences throughout the semester. Harvard currently offers over 200 different distance-learning courses and like many colleges and universities has no intention of slowing down their distance learning programs.

The University of West Georgia conducted a study on the completion rates among distance learning classes to learn how to improve the completion rates in online education. The university found that the two hardest aspects for distance learners were keeping up with their reading assignments and their final exams. While keeping private online class students organized is the main issue with class completion rates, the biggest problem with MOOC completion rates is simply keeping students interested in the courses. In MOOCs many students stay registered in the classes, but don’t do any of the work and in private online classes the students who are going to drop do so within the first week of the course. The amount of private online classes as well as their higher completion rates proves that these private online classes are more successful than their MOOC competitors and beg the question; will MOOCs that don’t offer class credit really ever work?

 

 

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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: maebmij via photopin cc

Topics: higher education

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