Demographics on GT’s first Coursera MOOC: Computational Investing by Tucker Balch

January 29, 2013 at 1:04 am 8 comments

My colleague Tucker Balch posted on his blog the detailed demographics of his Coursera MOOC (the first at Georgia Tech), “Computational Investing.” He got 41% of the completers to respond to his survey, but only 2.6% of those who enrolled but did not complete. That’s a remarkable response rate, so it’s a great snapshot into who completes a course like this.

A big caveat up-front: This is “Computational Investing.” It’s clearly an elective subject, so we would expect demographics to shift from what we might hope to see in a required course (like CS1 or data structures) or a common upper-level course (like AI).

Some of the results that I found intriguing:

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Visiting Indiana University this week How Can We Get More Boys Into Ballet? Response to an argument against getting more women into computing

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jeff Rick  |  January 29, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Go Tucker for making this stuff available! Doing a survey of demographics before the start of the course could combat the abysmal 2.6% response rate for dropping students. That’s too low to assume that it is a representative sample. There are potentially interesting things there (6% of completers identify as female while 11% of the dropouts identify as female) but that could just indicate that women are more likely to answer a survey for a course that they dropped. Given how reluctant certain groups are to answering surveys, even the 41% might be too low to infer any meaning about demographic data for these groups.

  • 2. Steve Tate  |  January 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

    An overall completion rate of 4.8%??? And over 50% of those already have graduate degrees (MS or PhD)? I believe that reports of the death of the university are greatly exaggerated. MOOCs intrigue me – not because I think they offer any sort of substitute to what I provide for my students, but because I always loved being a student and taking classes from people who really knew their subject. I would love to take the Computational Investing class. Or the Quantum Computing class the Umesh Vazirani is offering. If I had time I’d be one of those people with graduate degrees that take the classes.

    But as an alternative for an average undergraduate student? An impending MOOCopalypse? Not even close. I think a lot of the excitement about MOOCs from academics comes from people who go “oh that’s so cool – I’d love to do that” – falling into the all-too-common trap of thinking that our students are like us (and, to be blunt, except possibly at the top universities, our students are nothing like us — nor do they need to be).

    What I hope comes from all of this are better outside materials – supplementing (not necessarily replacing) textbooks, and it would be cool to have larger multi-university discussions of core topics. The 33% participation in class discussion forums scaled to even just 1,000 students across multiple universities offers some real intriguing possibilities (and is actually a higher percentage than I get in either online discussions or voluntary participation in in-class discussions, although that’s probably a topic for another day). Maybe what we need is to coordinate face-to-face classes run somewhat in sync, and can take advantage of these technologies. But it would definitely be a supplement – the people who are “in charge” would be local to each face-to-face class, where they know the students and directly interact with the students.

  • 3. Fred Martin (@fgmart)  |  January 31, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    It’s intriguing that the profiles of completers and non-completers look pretty much the same — at least, for age and education level.

    It’s like the beginning of each semester, when everything seems possible, and all good intentions are entertained…

  • 4. MOOCs, Data, and the Public Interest | HESA  |  March 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

    […] of her sample – apparently this data simply isn’t available for most courses.   Duke and Georgia Tech have commendably published some data about their early experiments.  But apart from that, the […]

  • […] everyone has the opportunity to learn.  I believe that the issues are the same for MOOCs, which tend to draw a well-educated, majority-class, and male audience.  I highly recommend reading her entire essay linked […]

  • […] are – there is a bunch of concern at Computing Education, such as this post. Overall, though, as usual, the underrepresented students remain, well, […]

  • […] the fact that 90% of the students didn’t talk online (a statistic that is similar to what Tucker Balch found) says that success in MOOCs may be more about talking offline than […]

  • 8. Philip Guo  |  September 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Also, the summary stats for demographics of *completers* are even more skewed than for the general participant pool:

    – 92% of completers were white or Asian
    – 94% were male
    – 58% held either master’s or Ph.D.


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