Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Teacher announced today that the SciWrite MOOC's enrollment is up. First I heard was 22,000, then it jumped to 28,000, and today it's 30,000. Let me put that in perspective for you. Fenway Park has 37,065 seats. My classmates would fill it to 80% capacity. 

Is the world ready for 30,000 newly educated science writers? But not to worry, that won't happen. Although Red Sox playoff tickets average $322, a MOOC ticket is free. The cost of signing up is zero, it hardly takes a minute to do so. The course itself, on the other hand, is supposed to occupy 4-8 hours per week. How many will persevere and finish? Completion rates vary widely. The most often quoted figure for MOOC dropout rate is 90%.  (I'll cite more precise data in a later post.)

A college in the non-virtual world that lost 90% of enrollment in every course would not exactly make the top of the U.S. New & World Report rankings. MOOCs are different, right?

I wonder what the enrollment number would be, and then the retention rate, if signing up cost as little as $10. People like to get their money's worth. Charging $100 would drastically cut enrollment, but I'll bet retention rate would skyrocket. 

Should we care? Are enrollment and dropout rates relevant? Is the MOOC a horse of such different color than older forms of education that none of the old rules apply? Is this college, or is it a new flavor of public television?

1 comment:

Cindy Hill said...

It's really the new public television -- and the horrible but natural progression of the shift from in-class professors, to in-class adjuncts, to use of online course shells, to online courses. This progression exemplifies the new philosophy of education as content delivery rather than education as learning. There's an assumption that delivering the content means that anyone observing that content now 'knows' it. That's like thinking I could forge the perfect Viking sword after watching a half-hour Nova special on it. 'Taint the same thing as learning.