Way back in 2008, Canadian educators – Stephen Downes and George Siemens launched a free and open online course that went by an obscure acronym – CCK08 (‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008’)! The course that saw 2,200 people signing up, allowed anyone to modify or remix the content without paying.
The world of education had found the next BIG thing. Massive Open Online Courses (better known as MOOCs) had arrived and were here to stay!
MOOCs filled a void for learners who lacked the time and/or finances to physically attend a course featuring high-quality content. Just as learners had open access to MOOCs, instructors from schools and universities and a variety of other education providers – practically anyone with a skill to share knowledge could host a MOOC.
The MOOC marketplace exploded with growth in the following years. Thousands of MOOCs were launched globally, many hosted by top notch institutions such as Harvard and Stanford. MOOCs with their great combination of technology (Authoring + Learning Management System), content and pedagogy seemed like the panacea that the world was waiting for!
So Why aren’t MOOCs Delivering On the Promise Yet?
While MOOCs displayed all the makings of a disruptive force capable of fundamentally transforming education, a 2012-2013 study conducted by MIT and Harvard revealed an overwhelming 95% of students dropped out of their online course! Many similar studies across the world seem to underline the trend that MOOCs were not able to engage learners effectively.
The most common reasons cited for this – lack of live instructor engagement, minimal interactivity & collaboration and personalization of learning experience!
The low completion rates notwithstanding, economics alone offers a huge advantage for MOOCs. According to a Deloitte study: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Not Disrupted Yet, But The Future Looks Bright¹, the total amount of student debt in the US in 2003 was over $200 billion which had ballooned to over $1 trillion in the next 10 years. Since 2000, the US tuition cost in colleges has increased by 72 percent, whereas earnings for people aged 25-30 have decreased by 15 percent. This information underlines the fact that economics are on the side of MOOCs that offer a cost-effective model of learning delivery.
How to engage learners & improve learning outcomes?
MOOCs can have a significant impact in education and help solve many critical issues that characterize the way education has been resourced, delivered and consumed. But for that to happen we need to address the challenge of improving learner engagement and eventually, learning outcomes.
Live Instructor-led & Collaborative Learning
It’s common wisdom that humans learn best from humans. But MOOCs are traditionally structured using a series of pre-recorded video-based, self-paced classes – turning out to be like Internet version of books. The lack of live instructor involvement results in absence of dialogue and professional insight that a human-to-human interaction brings. Instructor intervention also results in adaptable pedagogy to address the learning needs of different learner types are met. It is imperative that MOOCs integrate a live instructor-led element in the learning environment – this could be the single most important driver of engagement and outcomes!
MOOCs must also encourage participatory culture and collaborative learning behavior by leveraging social networks, blogs, forums and other tools. These can be major drivers of engagement as learners use them as a way to interact, present and test ideas and theories.
There are enough statistics on the ubiquity and indispensability of the smartphone. Mobile learning has the potential to engage learners better as it enables more collaborative, immersive and relevant learning experience as compared to more traditional vehicles. Modern MOOCs must be available to learners through readily deployable mobile Apps to address their need of flexible anywhere, anytime learning.
Learner Analytics & Insights
Big data and analytics are a big trend currently and can be of immense utility in education. The ability to measure what’s working and what’s not in teaching and learning, coupled with the power to personalize it for individual learners, is major advance in education technology. The learner analytics feature that some MOOC platforms like WizIQ offer, provides data-driven insights for a deeper understanding of learner performance and learning behavior. An intuitive dashboard view of attendance reports, content consumption reports, heat maps, test scores, comparative score details and course activity – makes it easy to improve everything from course curriculum, instructor effectiveness to student retention and outcomes.
Robust Test & Assessment Framework
Learners learn best when they are fully engaged in the learning process, can experience some personal gain from an activity and are motivated to test their current level of learning against known benchmarks. MOOCs must include a robust test & assessment framework with a large variety of question types that help learners evaluate their progress and take corrective course correction as required.
Learner Success Services
MOOC platforms that will keep the learner experience at the centre will be the only ones that will succeed in the new world. MOOCs also need to consider offering Student Lifecycle Management Services (Recruitment to Course Completion) and support services to provide 24/7 technical and process assistance to learners and faculty. These kinds of services focus on improved learning experience and consequently, better learner outcomes.