Who completes a MOOC?

September 25, 2012 at 8:02 am 6 comments

We’ve wondered on this blog before: Who completes a MOOC?  Who doesn’t?  edX has released some data on who completed their Circuits & Electronics course, and it’s pretty interesting.  These aren’t newbies.  37% had a bachelors, 28% had a master’s, and 6% had doctorates.  This is only one course, and it’s only the completers, but I’m betting that it’s comparable to other MOOCs when considering (for example) all the folks who got perfect scores on the Udacity CS101 final exam.

The findings are limited and have not been formally compiled or analyzed — Agarwal relayed them to Inside Higher Ed after logging into the platform’s back end from his Cambridge, Massachusetts office. But perhaps the most interesting piece of data is that 80 percent of respondents said they had taken a “comparable” course at a traditional university prior to working their way through Circuits & Electronics.

One way to read the finding is to say that although the Circuits & Electronics course was open to anyone, anybody who had not already paid for traditional education would be ill-equipped to succeed in the course.

To some extent, Agarwal expected that would be the case for Circuits & Electronics, which listed certain physics and math courses as prerequisites. The survey findings affirmed that the successful students were well-educated: about 78 percent of the respondents said they had previously taken a course on vectors or differential equations. Only 4 percent said they had never taken calculus.

via edX explores demographics of most persistent MOOC students | Inside Higher Ed.

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Are computing educators professionally and legally required to change and improve their practice? New ACM Classification System doesn’t get Computing Education

6 Comments Add your own

  • [...] created of where his MOOC students are coming from! These are fascinating data, and the result is particularly useful since there’s so little data to be had on MOOCs. It’s hard to be sure from just eye-balling the data, but my sense [...]

  • 2. Comparing MOOCs and books « Computing Education Blog  |  December 7, 2012 at 8:26 am

    [...] the signal from the noise.  Which MOOC students do you really want to get feedback from?  The 80% of “students” who are re-taking a course they’ve taken before?  The 90% of enrollees who never planned to [...]

  • [...] teach. We know that MOOCs have a low completion rate. What most people don’t realize is that the majority of those who complete already knew the content. MOOCs offer a one-size-fits-few model, unchanging between content domains, [...]

  • [...] is whether MOOCs get more students a fraction that they didn’t have previously (see the edX data about 80% repeating the course) than a similar face-to-face course.  It’s not obvious to me either way — there are [...]

  • […] I’ve raised the question here before, whether CS departments could be forced to change their teaching practices in order to comply with Title IX provisions so that more women might participate.  One of the arguments I got in response was that no one adopted any practices to explicitly exclude women.  This ruling says that the motivation for the practice doesn’t matter — even if it’s a “neutral” practice, if the effect is discriminatory, it has to go.  We certainly have evidence that implicit bias exists in computing classrooms and that CS teachers allow their classrooms to develop a defensive climate. Further, we know a lot about how to improve women’s participation in computing.  If we have a legal requirement to make computing education available to women, my guess is that we could be required to make change.  For example, could we be forced to give up MOOCs as a discriminatory practice, since MOOCs have a measurable discriminatory effect? […]

  • […] about them. Making claims about computing education based on the 10% who complete a CS MOOC (and mostly white/Asian, male, wealthy, and well-educated at that) is bad […]


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