MOOC-land Through the Residential Online Prism

From IHE today:

The age distribution of students who stuck it out with Circuits & Electronics favored what higher ed would call “nontraditional” students: Half of them were 26 years old or older. About 45 percent were traditional college-aged students, and 5 percent were in high school. The oldest probable-completer was 74; the youngest, 14.

Some people might look at that and say — wow, primarily adult learners then.

I actually see the college-age piece as higher than I would have thought. This is a course with some solid prerequisites. It’s hard to believe that these college-age students aren’t either in school or had been in school until recently. This is not expanding access in these situations; it’s doing something else.

But it gets more interesting — way more interesting. EdX reports out proudly that 80 percent of students had taken a comparable course at college, and most thought the MOOC was better than that course. But as Kolowich points out, that buries the lede. Eighty percent of completers had taken a comparable course already?

Wait, what?

There’s a massive question here for me here in how MOOCs are being used — are they granting educational access to new people, or are they being used to supplement educational access the completers already have? If it’s the second, I think it’s a fascinating story — and it’s a story that Silicon Valley might not like. It’s not MOOCs replacing higher education — it’s MOOCs supporting it. It’s not revolution or disruption. It’s synergy.

The real shame (as the article points out) is that for all their talk about data-driven decision making the people hyping MOOCs as an HE replacement have no good data, and so we are forced to rely on poorly executed marketing surveys like this for a  peek into what is going on.  But even with limited data, we are seeing that the revolution doesn’t look quite like the revolution that is being televised.


3 thoughts on “MOOC-land Through the Residential Online Prism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s