MOOCs and Your Data

Jun 17, 2013

The debate of the potential impact of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the world of higher education has been raging since their introduction in 2011. Trustees, board members, and academics across the country are debating the opportunities and threats of the massive-scale, online offerings.

While elite universities are debate whether MOOCs have a place in their curricula (and whether they should be producing MOOCs for distribution / sale), regional and community colleges are facing a more existential problem: adoption of MOOCs create more competition in an already highly competitive space.

More than eighty percent of US colleges are the nonselective, community-college type, and their students tend to be more sensitive to both cost and convenience than those at elite universities. A recent survey from the Instruction Technology Council found that demand for community college distance learning is increasing – even as traditional enrollment falls – and that schools are increasingly using hybrid, Web-assisted, Web-enhanced, and Web-facilitated offerings. Community college administrators, while remaining skeptical of MOOCs, are exploring ways to take advantage of the new course model.

MOOCs claim to offer a path for providing convenient, high-quality content at low cost. But can they really deliver? For colleges considering incorporating MOOCs in their curricula, performance measurement and data analysis are paramount.

Effective use of data and analytics is necessary to make informed decisions about course delivery methods. Would MOOCs be effective at your institution? Can you prove it? Which course types and teaching methods yield the best results? Can you predict student success based on internal and external factors? ASR's experience with its clients shows that online education has somewhat lower student success and completion than hybrid or completely face to face instruction. But in any delivery mode, engagement has proven to be one of the primary success factors. The key question is how to provide that engagement in a MOOC environment. By measuring and testing various engagement approaches in online delivery, these insights can help you make the best decisions – and can enable you to design your future courses to increase student success.