The high drop-out rates of massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been widely reported and roundly criticized. Carnegie Mellon University has received a $600,000 grant from Google to look for solutions to reverse that trend.
One big problem for MOOCs is the lack of social interaction, CMU researchers said in a National Public Radio report from the affiliate station in Pittsburgh, PA. Taking a MOOC means students learn in isolation, but dealing with other students is important for effective learning.
“Learning in the MOOC context is not correlated with watching the filmstrips of the professor,” said Justine Cassell, associate vice provost of technology strategy and impact at CMU. “It’s correlated with the time you spend in an online discussion group and I love that. Of course, it’s not surprising: It’s the same thing for a real classroom.”
An even bigger issue for MOOCs is that when they are free with no credit attached, students are often just browsing with no intention of becoming active participants.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the vision that was kind of hyped up in the media, but there will be something new that’s coming,” CMU Associate Professor Carolyn Rosé said about her work in the study on MOOCs. “And so, I think it’s worth working towards that. I think it offers something and we have to find out what that new thing is that we’re ready as a community to offer.”