M is for Massive

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MOOCS – the world at your fingertips? CCO Public Domain

This is the first of a series of four closing posts in which I draw together the threads of my experience as a MOOC participant and my reading and thinking as a DEGC student.

The M in MOOC is for Massive. This refers to the scale of participation – MOOCs attract large numbers of registrations, though this does not always translate into completions. Catropa 2013 gives an interesting example with the breakdown of figures from one course:

In the course Bioelectricity, Fall 2012 at Duke University, 12,725 students enrolled, but only 7,761 ever watched a video, 3,658 attempted a quiz, 345 attempted the final exam, and 313 passed, earning a certificate.

12,725 with 313 passing students is a 2.46% completion rate -this is very low for a conventional course but 313 still seems a high completion rate for an optional course.

The course I studied did not feel that ‘massive’ as a participant – I comment on this in Week 2 – no longer a newbie. I was surprised in the Feedback video on assignment 1 to discover there were 3500 participants. An email I received, 4 days before the course ended (it was actually extended a week) offered:

Special congratulations to the 149 learners who have already met the requirements to earn a certificate

So of 3500 registered students, 149 passing students gives a 4.26% completion rate.

MOOCs are generally thought of as having a global audience, but there can also be a local cohort aspect. Salmon et al (2015) had not anticipated institutional collaboration as part of their Carpe Diem MOOC outcomes, but they found that at the host institution, Swinburne University of Technology, 101 staff members took part creating a ‘buzz’ across the institution. They also found that groups from other institutions were taking part as a professional development exercise. This would be an interesting option to consider in my own workplace.

Massive can also be thought of in terms of distance – MOOCs can be accessed across the world and I reflected on this in the post Where in the world?. I also thought about the institution I was studying with in Where am I studying?. I reflected on working with students in a global cohort in Week 1 activities and assignments, when I realised that the national project I’d chosen for my case study submission was probably not that interesting to the global cohort. Now you can go and ‘try’ courses from Universities all over the world including many very prestigious Institutions. Would taking part in a MOOC give me  an insight into their offerings? How ‘typical’ would a MOOC be compared to on-campus teaching? It’s an opportunity to experience different cultures without travelling or is it just homogenizing education? I consider this more in  O is also for Online.


Catropa, D. (2013) Big (MOOC) Data. Inside Higher ED
Retrieved 13 March 16 https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/stratedgy/big-mooc-data

Salmon, G., Gregory, J. Lokuge Dona, K. and Ross B. (2015) Experiential online development for educators: The example of the Carpe Diem Mooc. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46 (3) 542-556

Week 2 – no longer a newbie

Screen shot of the Bookmarks page
Bookmarks tool – I’d worked out how to add them but then found the page of the collected bookmarks – super handy!

It’s easier to get started in the second week. I’m starting to find my way around the interface a bit better. I’ve just sussed how to find the bookmarks I’ve made and that should be a big help, as I kept losing pages last week!

I’ve also got a rough idea of how much time all the component parts will take. I started this week by watching the assignment video, then checking out the workload plan. Now I can work back from these.

This week’s assignment task is to complete a survey, still using the case study from the week 1 assignment – this will allow them to collate info from all the thousands of MOOC participants and share it back with us. It’s an interesting idea and it makes good use of the “massive” aspect of the MOOC. I’m not sure about thousands of participants? Judging by the number of submissions in the discussion boards I’d say closer to hundreds?

There’s a mixed message from the  T & Cs on the survey!

We would like to remind you that your participation in this survey is voluntary. You may withdraw your participation at any time. Your decision as to whether to participate however will affect 10% of your grade. Your answers here, combined with your edX course data, may be used in scientific research related to online education. This survey is in accordance with the edX Privacy Policy. All provided information will be treated confidentially.

So it looks like an aspect of this MOOC is about collecting data for a research project. Is this another way in which MOOCs are not entirely ‘free’ in that your labour becomes part of someone’s research project?