Measuring the impact of a MOOC can be complicated

Stefanie Botelho's picture

Only 5 percent of people who start a free online "massive open enrollment course," or MOOC, finish the course. This a fact often cited as an indictment of MOOCs. But is that really the measure of success?

MOOCs are courses provided by some of the world's best universities free online to anyone who wants to sign up, watch the lectures, read the materials and participate in online forums. Some classes provide completion certificates to participants who pay a small fee and complete all the assigments.

Brandon Alcorn, Gayle Christensen and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, all from the University of Pennsylvannia, argue in The Atlantic that critiques based on completion rate miss the point, and that MOOCs serve a valuable function even when the course is not completed.

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