How to cook the books of a MOOC

Although completion rates remain low, those who DO complete MOOCs report high satisfaction rates. Meanwhile, some learners are cheating their way to course completion.

In the last four years, 25 million people have signed up for a Massive Open Online course (MOOCs).  However, it’s estimated that only a small percentage complete the course.  Research by Katy Jordan suggests that the current average completion rate for MOOC courses is less than 15%.   The completion rates for courses that rely on peer-grading, are much lower than for those relying on automatic marking.

MOOCs began to emerge in 2012, opening up educational opportunities to anyone who had the internet connectivity required.  But have they brought about an educational revolution or are they 'educating the educated'?   Researchers from Harvard, MIT and other institutions have been investigating the nature and impact of MOOCS.  Most agree – MOOCs are different and MOOC learners are not like 'traditional students’'  They have a broader age distribution; they are more diverse and more international. 

In an article published by HBR, the (admittedly pro-MOOC) authors looked at the satisfaction rates of learners who had actually completed their courses. 

  • 72% reported career benefits
  • 61% reported educational benefits.

They also state that learners in developing countries, people with lower socioeconomic status and with less education are more likely to report benefits. Although completion rates are low, it seems the benefits for those who DO complete the course are perceived as real.

How to cheat on a MOOC

Not only do MOOCs offer new forms of learning - according to an article in The Conversation, they provide an opportunity to indulge in a completely new form of cheating.  Known as CAMEO (Copying Answers using Multiple Existences Online), a MOOC learner registers twice for a MOOC.  One account is used to harvest correct answers and to test out strategies; the other identity completes the course using this information.  Estimates suggest the number of cheats is low (1.3%).  Cheating rates differ depending on the type of course.

Sources: Harvard Business Review; Inside HigherEd;