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MOOC Retention Matters

University Business, March 2013

Could the growing popularity of MOOCs cause retention troubles? Yes, if companies and schools come up with a way to offer credit for the courses, experts say.

Jennifer Beyer, a solutions consultant at Hobsons, expects the issue to start appearing if credit is offered, and also if access is no longer free.

“I think part of the MOOC issue is that feeling of anonymity, that lack of connection, and how easy it is to walk away when I’m not vested in you and you’re not vested in me,” she says. “Without that ability to make a personal connection either with the content or the faculty member of the institution that’s delivering it, I think we’re going to see huge retention issues in that venue.”

The issue may not be too far away, either. In January, Coursera announced a pilot project that will check the identities of students and offer verified certificates of completion. Coursera now hosts more than 200 courses from 33 U.S. and international colleges and universities. And last November, the American Council on Education announced a research effort in which it would begin evaluating select Coursera courses for college credit, and in early February announced that five Coursera MOOCs were comprable to traditional colleges courses and would be eligible for credit. Students will have to pay a fee to take an identity-verified, proctored exam, and for a transcript to submit to their school.

With the offering of credits for MOOCs, there will likely be hybrid courses offered where students meet face to face in a classroom participating in a MOOC proctored by someone from their home school but led by the instructor from an elite institution, predicts Burt Rubenstein, vice president of student success solutions at Jenzabar.

“As the MOOCs become more popular, this is going to become a bigger issue,” he says.

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