Success in MOOCs: Talk offline is important for learning
That students who had offline help did the best in this MOOC study is not surprising. Sir John Daniel reported in Mega-Universities that face-to-face tutors was the largest line item in the Open University UK’s budget. But 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 online.
“On average, with all other predictors being equal, a student who worked offline with someone else in the class or someone who had expertise in the subject would have a predicted score almost three points higher than someone working by him or herself,” write the authors.The correlation, described by the authors as the “strongest” in the data set, was limited to a single instance of a particular MOOC, and is not exactly damning to the format. But it nonetheless may give ammunition to critics who say human tutelage remains essential to a good education.Other findings could also raise eyebrows. For example, the course’s discussion forum was largely the dominion of a relatively small group of engaged users; most students simply lurked. “It should be stressed that over 90 percent of the activity on the discussion forum resulted from students who simply viewed pre-existing discussion threads, without posting questions, answers, or comments,” the authors write.