Researchers have been trying to figure out why completion rates for massive open online courses (MOOCs) tend to stay around 10%. A new study showed that putting learners into study groups based on communication preferences isn’t the answer.
The research done at Pennsylvania State University showed that the groupings had no significant impact on students’ performance or completion. Participants in the survey were put into groups based on their preferred methods of communications for the course: asynchronous, which allows students to learn at their own pace with common online communication such as email or discussion boards, or synchronous, a more facilitated form of communication such as videoconferencing.
“These differences were statistically different and were moderated by English language proficiency, gender, level of education, and age,” Adelina Hristova, a Penn State doctoral student and one of the collaborators on the report, said in an article for Penn State News. “Although the groups designed for the study did not significantly influence students’ course performance and completion, our study can serve as baseline data for making grouping decisions in future online courses, including MOOCs.”
The study did note that older learners were more likely to complete the course. It also found that female students preferred to study in groups, while males preferred synchronous communications for the course.
“It has provided me with a fabulous opportunity to study how students of different ages, cultures, genders, and educational backgrounds learn and practice some of the subjects that I teach—namely, design, problem-solving, and creativity,” said Kathryn Jablokow, a Penn State associate professor of mechanical engineering and engineering design. “Those insights influence how I formulate new research studies, and the MOOC also gives me a unique setting in which to test and disseminate new research results.”