A study of massive open online courses (MOOCs) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University researchers found registration continues to grow. The survey reported that new registrations for MOOCs average more than 1,500 people each day, while the median number of active participants for each course is nearly 8,000.
HarvardX and MITx: Four Years of Open Online Courses noted that 2.4 million unique users participated in one or more MOOCs offered by the two institutions and nearly 250,000 learner certificates were issued over the last four years. It also found that the average number of students enrolled into computer sciences courses is more than 21,000, compared to just over 7,900 for other courses, according to a report in Campus Technology.
At the same time, the study reported a significant drop in MOOC enrollment in 2016. MIT and Harvard University each had about 800,000 participants enrolled in MOOCs in 2015, but last year those numbers fell to 670,000 for MIT courses and 540,000 for HarvardX offerings.
The number of people earning certification also fell to its lowest point in the four years of the study, although the total number of certificates awarded in 2016 was higher than the number presented in the first year of the research. Researchers are concerned that the drop in participation was caused by the decision to not provide free certification for the courses.
“The typical course is smaller than it used to be, but this decrease is also steady and related to the proliferation of courses with more specialized content and smaller audiences,” Andrew Ho, a Harvard researcher who co-authored the study, told TechCrunch. “The MOOC audience continues to grow, but the number of MOOCs is growing faster. An analogy is television viewership numbers, and now we have more ‘channels’ than ever. The question now is how can audiences find the best course for them and on what merits.”