I’m currently involved in three open online courses: Change, CCK12, and LAK12. Altogether, I’ve facilitated about a dozen of these courses, with about 15,000 participants being involved in various ways. Some participants, such as in the current CCK12 iteration, take the courses for credit. The vast majority do so for other reasons (and I’m not sure what those are – personal interest? desire to connect with others? general curiosity?).
Participation varies significantly. The Change MOOC has about 2400 participants, yet we get typically get about 40 participants per live sessions, 5-10 blog posts a day, and 20+ daily tweets related to the course. Some are active throughout the course (though when I did an analysis on CCK08, only a few of the most active participants in week 1 were still in the top ten by week 12), some have spurts of activity, and others subscribe to the daily but don’t engage in ways that are visible to us as facilitators. Consistently, as the course progresses, active participation declines.
This isn’t unique to our courses. Even the current darling of open courses – Udacity – suffers from this. Their course on “building a search engine” had 2303 views for the introduction video and only 486 views for one of the last lecture videos of week 1. Video counts are a great way to track what people are actually doing in a course as creating something (artifact, blog post) is done less frequently in open courses than listening/reading. Wonder how long until companies like Udacity move away from YouTube to keep hit counts on videos in-house.
While active participation in our courses declines as the course progresses, subscribers to the Daily increase. I’m not sure what to make of that. If I was getting five emails a week on something I wasn’t interested in, I would unsubscribe. Does that mean we can view Daily subscribers as a) people are still engaged, b) people can’t find the unsubscribe link, or c) that we’ve subjected over 15,000 people to guilt about not being active in MOOCs?
While I’m not sure of the impact of open courses, I can state I’ve absolutely loved the learning experience of open courses since 2007. I enjoyed reading Laura McInerney’s post on the best learning of my life:
In the last few weeks I have experienced some of the best learning of my life…But even more amazing for me was that as the presentation was going on I could check information online, pull research articles as they were mentioned, broadcast ideas I had to twitter and get feedback from teacher colleagues here in the UK who were sat in their hous watching tv quite unaware of what I was listening in to. There was just so. much. learning. And it was awesome in the literal sense of the word – for the entire hour I was in awe of how much information I was able to take in and make sense of in so many different ways.