Thursday, 31 July 2014

MOOCs: the costs and the completion

In early 2014, MIT and Harvard reported that 95% of enrollees did not complete courses. The reasons, according to Dan Coleman (2013), are diverse. They include that MOOCs can be too time-consuming; are poorly pitched – too highbrow, requiring too much previous knowledge or too dumbed down; lack course structure – either lecture-dominated or so laissez faire that you can’t find the needful; have poor communication tools; or contain unexpected hidden costs. There are also several student-oriented issues, including receiving unconstructive course peer reviews; you are just tyre kicking; or that you are simply mining for learning.

There is a lot of sense in those reasons. From my own experiences, I relate totally to the lack of course structure, the clunky communication tools and the mining for learning aspects. I expected the learning load, but that is probably because I am an educator.

From ideas being bandied around on the net, it appears that MOOCs cost somewhere between $40-1,000k to set up and resource. While this is a  big spread, we can still do some maths. Let's consider an enrolment of 60,000 students. Perhaps 3.5% taking signature track (the certified route; Jordan, 2013) at $50/student, you would make $105k each time you ran the course. And as most courses are only twelve weeks long, you could recoup capital costs of $1m+ in two and a half years. Not a bad investment. If you only spent $40k, you make your capital cost back two and a half times the first time you run your course. Money for jam.

From the student point of view, most of the time, we are OK with a course that is free. But often, if we pay nothing, we feel we have no right to complain... wow: a truly silent majority.

It is only when we want badging that it costs us. And $50 isn't too exorbitant a fee. No wonder Clayton Christensen, Clay Shirky and others think this will be the end of education as we know it.



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