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