MOOCs Are Growing More Popular. Here’s How to Make Them Better.

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
April 12, 2018

Last year, 81 million people signed up for a Massive Online Open Course.[1]

It’s easy to see why these online classes are so popular. Most are free and open to anyone. So they’re a cheap and flexible way for students and professionals to gain new skills and advance their careers.[2]

But nearly nine in ten students drop out before they finish.[3] Fortunately, there are simple ways schools can boost completion rates.

MOOCs offer students a great deal of flexibility and autonomy. Students can work through certificate and degree programs at their own pace. And they don’t have to worry about transportation costs, childcare, or foregone wages.[4]

But that very flexibility can backfire. There’s limited interaction between the MOOC sponsors and enrollees. So it’s easy for students to fall behind and drop out. They largely do so because they feel unmotivated or isolated, according to a study conducted by researchers at Mansoura University and Graz University of Technology.[5]

Institutions must strive to keep students engaged and ensure they complete the MOOCs.

Here at St. George’s, we’ve taken steps to do just that. Consider our One Health/One Medicine MOOC, which began in 2013 and has engaged more than 5000 students from over 50 countries with an average completion rate of 21 percent.

We decided to make the course more interactive by adding chat rooms, live office hours and discussion sections, and seminars led by student presenters.[6] That created a learning community that keeps students engaged.[7] Now, 60 percent of students finish the course.[8]                            

As online learning grows more prominent, MOOCs will play a bigger role in higher education. Educators must continue to improve these courses so that students actually finish them. St. George’s provides a strong model for doing so.










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