- A study published in Science by Harvard graduate student John D. Hansen uses socioeconomic status neighborhood data about 164,198 massive open online course participants, finding the affluent are more likely to enroll in and complete the courses.
- Each increase of $20,000 in neighborhood median income increased the likelihood of course participation by 27%, and each additional year of neighborhood-average educational attainment did the same by 69%.
- While MOOCs do not seem to be achieving the original goal of democratizing education, The New York Times reports Hansen believes MOOCs can be redesigned or adapted to become more appealing and accessible to lower-income users.
Hansen analyzed participant data from U.S. users who signed up for massive open online courses at Harvard and MIT between 2012 and 2014. These participants’ addresses were then tied to a Census block group and analyzed based on median income, average educational attainment, and parental educational attainment. Along with the above statistics, higher parental educational attainment also correlated with a higher likelihood of course completion. Hansen also found MOOCs do not disproportionately serve the geographically isolated.
If higher education leaders want to use online courses to reach a group of students who have not traditionally had access to high-quality higher education, they have to change the way MOOCs are being designed and marketed.