MOOCs and OCW: A Learning Ecosystem

The first MOOCs have produced abundant data about students and learning behaviors, and perhaps even more press coverage about what it all means for the future of education.

Take the oft-discussed low completion rates of most MOOCs. Christine Nasserghodsi’s recent piece in HuffPost Education highlights how, for many students, completing a course is really not the goal…and that should be just fine.

…[C]ompletion rates only tell part of the story. I asked several high school students who enrolled in MOOCs whether or not they earned certificates. Each and every one said they had not, and yet they did not classify themselves as having dropped out of the MOOC. They simply explained that it didn’t matter. They signed up for pre-exam preparation, curriculum enrichment, or out of a personal interest. Their goals did not involve earning a certificate. As Justin Reigh and Andrew Ho wrote in their 2014 Atlantic article, “The Tricky Task of Figuring Out What Makes a MOOC Successful,”

“Our data show that many who register for HarvardX courses are engaging substantially in courses without earning a certificate. In these courses, ‘dropping out’ is not a breach of expectations but the natural result of an open, free, and asynchronous registration process, where students get just as much as they wish out of a course and registering for a course does not imply a commitment to completing it.”

If learning about specific things on your own schedule is more important to you than completing courses, you’ve not alone. Indeed, Reigh and Ho suggests you are central to the future of learning:

…[O]ur research describes an emerging learning ecosystem, one where enrollment can be casual and nonbinding, learning happens asynchronously, and registrants come from all countries in the world, with diverse intentions and patterns of learning.

These qualities — casual and nonbinding, asychronous, global — describe the learning mission we’ve always had at MIT OpenCourseWare. Start by finding your topic or search among the thousands of always-available courses and resources on OCW. Dive in, explore, bookmark and return later, even download the materials for future use. All with no registration required.

Meanwhile, with more MOOCs being offered every month, chances get better all the time that you’ll also find an edX course to complement what you’ve found on OCW. Don’t be shy about registering, and simply use the bits that appeal to you. You’ll have lots of company!

4 thoughts on “MOOCs and OCW: A Learning Ecosystem

  1. MOOCs go nowhere as it is .
    Best is edx non proofit + same course as oncampus course selected universities
    They must provide degrees asap . Also charge a small fee of $ 1000-200 per course for sustainability.
    As it is MOOCs are waste of time and Money .


  2. I’ve taken courses on and All of them were of great quality and I learned a lot taking them. On one or two courses I earned a certificate which required a lot of studying and passing challenging exams. Most courses I now just audit. I also have completed many free courses on iTunes U and YouTube. The courses from Caltech and Stanford were outstanding. As were the courses from Duke, U of Rochester, U of Maryland, U of Edinburgh, Rutgers, MIT, OCW, etc. It’s been over forty years since I graduated from college. To be able to watch course lectures from universities all over the country, as well as download the course materials, is such a great opportunity. I just can’t say thanks enough.


  3. MOOCs are the new type of books. If you were once smart enogh to learn only from books without attending lectures, you may now be smart enoght to learn from a MOOC. You have to have a lot of self discipline and intrinsic motivation to learn, otherwise it’s a waste of time and money.


  4. Lerner
    you say ” online even by MIT Harvard Stanford , it is a waste of time and Money ”
    You are 100 % wrong.
    Even online from second class colleges are around for 20 years now . There are almost 8 million students out of total 20 million HE students taking at least one online courses , may be 2-3 million of them are 100 % online .(See Babson report every year ) In the market at least 2 million BA holders with 100 % online education .
    They are not good ( since they are from second class schoools ) but they are not just boks either .
    Where did you get the idea MOOCs are books.
    I do not like MOOCs as it is too.
    But edx non profit set up by MIT and Harvard is excellent, much better than face to face .
    Many MIT $ 50,000 paying full time students are also taking edx Electronic Circuits courrse, and they get better grades from their f2f classes. They just did not want to get early 8 am in the morning to attend the class.
    The only missing thing edx must have is DEGREES .
    The moment edx provide degrees too, millions will enroll at edx courses.
    But many bad colleges will be closed too. Good isn’t it .

    By the way ” you need a lot of self discipline ” even to attend regular college if you want to graduate . ” You must be smart enough to attend a regular college too ”

    That is the reason I say ” you are 100 % wrong ”
    Do not feel offended it is only my idea . I may be wrong too. Let us hear others too .


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