- A new study by researchers at the University of Washington has found significant differences in the types of people who take massive open online courses in developing countries, as compared to users in the United States — and they have different outcomes.
- In the U.S., MOOC users are disproportionately wealthy and already well-educated, and they more often take MOOCs for personal, rather than professional, reasons. But in developing countries, less than half of survey respondents had completed college, and they reported taking the courses to advance their education or career.
- Perhaps because of the motivations behind taking MOOCs, completion and certification rates are higher, and 49% of respondents said they had received certification for a course while 79% said they completed a course.
When MOOCs debuted, they were sold as a way to get educational opportunities to people without access otherwise. In the United States, they have largely disappointed on this goal, evidenced by a recent study out of Harvard showing that each increase of $20,000 in neighborhood median income increased the likelihood of course participation by 27%. On top of that, each additional year of neighborhood-average educational attainment did the same by 69%.
When it comes to course completion, an important question is how to define success in the world of MOOCs. If people take courses for personal or professional gain and get the skills they need or want without finishing or getting a certification, the course was still a success. The whole system calls for a rethinking of values.