MOOCs—massive open online courses—made a splash a few years ago, with news outlets declaring 2012 to be “the year of the MOOC.” A recent study from MIT and Harvard examines what has happened since then. Among its surprising results: the connection between online learners and brick-and-mortar classrooms.
The study, one of the largest ever undertaken on the topic of MOOCs, examined 68 courses offered through the edX platform, encompassing 1.7 million participants, 10 million participant-hours, and 1.1 billion logged events—or clicks, recorded by the edX servers. edX is an online, non-profit learning platform founded by MIT and Harvard in 2012.
“What jumped out at me was that… as many as 39 percent of our learners are teachers,” Isaac Chuang ’90, ’91, SM ’91, one of the study’s lead researchers, told the Atlantic in a recent interview. In fact, more than 6,100 teachers took MOOCs in subjects that they teach.
The report speculates that MOOCs are providing professional development for K–12 educators—a critical resource that teachers often feel is unavailable to them. The researchers identify this as an opportunity, by extension, for MOOCs to improve the learning experience for students in public schools.
Among the study’s other findings:
- MOOC participants tend to be college-educated.
- MOOC participation continues to grow at a steady rate.
- On average, each participant enrolls in 1.7 courses.
- Enrollment in computer sciences courses was nearly four times higher than in other categories, while course certification rates were highest in the humanities, government, and social sciences.
Related: Helping Students Stick with MOOCs