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EdX enrollment data shows online learners are more browsers than finishers

Fred O'Connor | Jan. 24, 2014
Online course participants are more likely to browse lesson material than stick around to earn a completion certificate, according to a report examining enrollment and usage data from edX, an online learning platform jointly launched by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall of 2012.

As for who is taking online courses, the typical participant is a 26-year-old male with a bachelor's degree, a profile fit by 222,847 enrollees. The report noted however that at 31 percent of applicants, "this profile describes fewer than one in three registrants." Female enrollees totaled 213,672 (29 percent), and 234,463 people (33 percent) said they had a high school education or less. Baby boomers are interested in MOOCs, with 45,884 (6.3 percent) of them signing up for edX courses.

Some people took to online learning with zeal, with approximately 4,000 registrants earning more than one certificate. Of that figure, 1,912 earned at least one certificate from both schools and 76 people earned five or more certificates.

Instead of viewing online learning platforms as "a monolithic collection of courses," the report called for reviewing the impact of MOOCs on an individual class basis since the material, context and audience of each course vary. Harvard School of Public Health courses, for example, have public policy implications and enrollees with more advanced educations. These factors need to be considered and mean different evaluation criteria is needed than what is used for reviewing classes on basic computer science.

 

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