After the initial surge of enthusiasm, the reputation of Massive Open Online Courses has been somewhat tarnished lately by reported high drop-out rates and production costs. According to education professionals who’ve experimented with the concept, this data doesn’t accurately reflect the situation, although the right economic model and new uses have yet to be mastered.  

Making a great online course, and why high drop-out rates aren’t a bad thing

By Elliott Masie
One of the most frequent – and quite frankly bogus – criticisms we hear about MOOCs is that course completion rates are extremely low, suggesting that students lose interest and ultimately learn nothing. The beauty of the on-demand MOOC format (i.e., students start and stop their classes as they desire) is that the student is in the driver’s seat. Asking “what are completion rates?” is the wrong question. Rather, you should be asking, “Did students learn what they needed to know?” Online learning is different from a traditional academic setting; everyone comes in with a different level of understanding and expertise. Read more on VentureBeat

MOOcs in Europe

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Online Evolution

One promising avenue is the “blended” or “flipped” course, in which content such as recorded lectures is made available to students, like a multimedia textbook, before they meet with teachers in the classroom. Gordon McKay professor of computer science Harry R. Lewis described how he reengineered a course this way, with low-tech recordings costing a tiny fraction of the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in a full-scale HarvardX offering.  Read more on Harvard Magazine

Don’t Dismiss MOOCs – We Are Just Starting To Understand Their True Value

Initial investment in designing, creating and delivering online courses is considerable – between £ 20,000 and £30,000 per course at Leeds. Filming academics giving a five minute introduction to their subject from a script using autocue, green screen, multiple cameras, professional microphones and lots of retakes is costly in time and resources.
But the learning materials live on. The end product, overlaid with animation and available as video in multiple formats, an audio podcast or a written transcript, can be repurposed, published and re-used in multiple contexts after the online course has finished.
While a proportion of academics are dismissive of MOOCs, there is evidence that others are taking some of the underpinnings of digital learning into their own academic practice. Read more on Science 20

MIT Team Turns 6.9 Million Clicks into Insights to Improve Online Education

By Peter High
This year EdX, the platform co-run by MIT and Harvard, gave researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) data on the second-by-second viewing habits of more than 100,000 learners perusing over 6.9 million video sessions. The team found that the following factors weigh heavily in the success or failure of online learning platforms:

  • brevity (viewers tune out after six minutes)
  • informality (professors seated at a desk, not standing behind a podium)
  • lively visuals (rather than static PowerPoint slides)
  • fast talkers (the most engaging professors spoke 254 words a minute)
  • BUT more pauses (so viewers can soak in complex diagrams)
  • web-optimized lessons (existing videos retroactively broken into shorter chunks are less effective than ones created with online audiences in mind)

Read more on Forbes