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MOOC data analysis for remedial education

A case study of Cuyahoga Community College
University Business, October 2013

Officials at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio have developed a MOOC consistent with its mission as a two-year school that provides developmental education, particularly in math, to get prospective students up to speed.

The school’s pre-algebra course—which ran four times, in March, April, May and June nad was funded through a Gates Foundation grant—targets high school graduates and others who need additional preparation before taking on college-level math, says Sasha Thackaberry, district director for the school’s eLearning Technologies department.

About 1,400 students enrolled in the course, 719 completed a survey at the end, and of the latter group, 18 percent had completed the course, Thackaberry says.

The course was designed using a game format to reinforce students’ desires to successfully learn concepts. It approaches content using a “Survivor”-esque wraparound story with four levels. Students are considered successful in the course when they complete a final at the end of level four, with a score of 80 percent or better.

The school has tracked student data like where they’re currently in school (if they are), age, ethnicity, geographic location (urban, suburban or rural), their highest level academic achievement, and whether they’re currently taking a math class. In late August, partly for a grant report to Gates, Thackberry was trying to determine what types of students would be likely to be most and least successful.

“The quicker we can get them through their developmental education and actually working on their college coursework toward their degree, the better it is for the student, but also the more statistically likely it is that they will complete their degree. The MOOC is just another way to help with that.”

Plus, the course could bring non-Cuyahoga students into the fold, she adds.

They’re also evaluating MOOCs and whether they will be a good fit overall for the school going forward. “We’re not just doing it because it’s new and cool,” she says. “If they work, we want to partner with faculty and scale it. If they don’t work, we want to focus our attention on the things that do.”