Completion rates of massive open online courses (MOOCs) may be low, but a survey by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) found that more students are finishing online classes taken on campus. The study, Managing Online Education, reported that 78% of the students completed online courses taken on campus, just 3% lower than the rate for in-person classes.
The problem, according to the WICHE report, is publicity surrounding the much lower MOOC completion rates.
“Some have confused MOOC completion rates with those of ‘traditional’ online courses,” the report said. “These results show that online completion rates track more closely with those in on-campus courses than is found in MOOCs.”
The study also found that more than 85% of responding institutions have developed standards for online course, but 65% were unable to provide on-campus completion rates and 55% didn’t report the online rates.
“As is the case with all of higher education, there is room for improvement,” the report concluded. “Perhaps the needed improvement is not as much as some critics might claim.”
Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology followed the WICHE study with data from 17 MOOCs offered by the two schools over the last two years. The study found completion rates are misleading when judging the potential of MOOCs.
“People are projecting their own desires onto MOOCs and then holding them accountable for criteria that the instructors and institutions, and, most importantly, students don’t hold for themselves,” Andrew Dean Ho, associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and director of the MOOC research at the university, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.