U. Texas invests $5M in edX to increase completion rates: Justified?
I guess what Agarwal says is true: Just because the first MOOCs have been “particularly challenging” with low completion rates does not mean that a MOOC could not work for “less well-prepared students.” But, it also gives us no reason to believe that they could succeed. Lots of people are hoping that MOOCs will succeed at lower-level classes, at increasing completion rates. Would you invest $5M (of taxpayer money) explicitly to improve completion rates over face-to-face classes, when MOOC’s currently have lower completion rates than face-to-face classes? NSF grants are for far less money, and demand much higher expectations of return (though one might argue that NSF should go after riskier investments). Or maybe the situation in higher education (especially U. Texas) is so dire, that MOOCs are considered a last-chance effort?
But for Anant Agarwal, the president of edX, poor retention in the early courses, which were built to be particularly challenging, does not mean a MOOC aimed at less well-prepared students is doomed to fail.
“That is one of the particular exciting things about the University of Texas coming on board,” said Agarwal in an interview on Monday in Boston, where he had just given the keynote talk at a meeting of the New England Board of Higher Education.
“It is the largest and most diverse system and has a large number of first-generation [students],” he said. “And they and we all see online learning as a way of increasing the success rate. And for that the [low-level, high-enrollment] courses are going to be key.”
And edX is not done with completion-oriented partnerships. Agarwal says edX has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop MOOCs aimed at community college students.
“We’ll be announcing community college partners soon,” he said. “We’ve narrowed it down and have got the final agreements in place.”