Low MOOC persistence rate (University of Pennsylvania / Coursera)

Type: Evidence | Hypothesis: Student retention | Polarity: | Sector: | Country:

A recent University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE)  study found that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user “engagement” falls off dramatically—especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course—and that few users persist to the course end.  The Penn GSE study analyzed the movement of a million users through sixteen Coursera courses offered by the University of Pennsylvania from June 2012 to June 2013.  They found that:

  • Course completion rates are very low, averaging 4% across all courses and ranging from 2% to 14% depending on the course and measurement of completion.
  • Across the 16 courses, completion rates are somewhat higher, on average, for courses with lower workloads for students and fewer homework assignments (about 6% versus 2.5%).
  • Variations in completion rates based on other course characteristics (e.g., course length, availability of live chat) were not statistically significant.
  • The total number of individuals accessing a course varied considerably across courses, ranging from more than 110,000 for “Introduction to Operations Management” to about 13,000 for “Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources.”
  • Across all courses, about half of those who registered viewed at least one lecture within their selected course. The share of registrants viewing at least one lecture ranged from a low of 27% for “Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources” to a high of 68% for “Fundamentals of Pharmacology.”
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