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The importance of early engagement with MOOCs (and other findings)

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The importance of early engagement with MOOCs (and other findings)

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As the MOOC movement has gained momentum over the last few years, there have been numerous claims around the impact they may eventually have.  So it’s interesting to read the MOOC Research Initiative’s report into the industry that was published recently.  It provides a report card on the sector, outlining some of the areas that they’ve done well in, and some that haven’t really shifted the needle quite as much as expected.

First, lets look at some of the positive aspects.  The study found that early engagement was key for overall student engagement levels.  Students who got involved in their courses were found to be more likely to last the distance.  This manifested itself in strong levels of student engagement in the early stages of a course, with discussions around class events particularly common.  Despite this however, the 90/9/1 rule of communities seemed to be present, with the majority of students in the lurker mode.

Equally, it was found that those who did manage to complete the course were confident that they would do so from the outset.  This was reflected in an overwhelming desire towards self-improvement, with these intrinsic goals supporting the completion of the course better than any external ones.

The report also suggested that MOOCs have the potential to adequately prepare students for tertiary education, with the archive functionality providing excellent opportunities for self-study or remedial learning.

It wasn’t a completely rosy picture of course.  The report highlighted the lack of real traction in the corporate learning sector, and suggested improvements in this area could be made by better integrating theoretical knowledge with practical applications.  This, coupled with better opportunities to reflect on the knowledge gained, would help to break into the corporate market.

The report was also rather dismissive of any revolutionary intent on the behalf of MOOCs.  It suggested that they are more likely to preserve the status quo of higher education than to overturn it, and that any disruption caused will probably be economic rather than pedagogic.

It’s on this note that an interesting challenge emerging from Wharton is focusing.  The Reimagine Education challenge is seeking submissions from educators around the world who are willing to describe how they are exploring new ways of teaching, learning and delivering educational content. The most innovative approaches will be considered for awards and monetary prizes.

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