People are often quick to give praise to online courses. They are flexible, accessible, and efficient.
It is a major reason why massive open online courses (MOOCs) have hundreds of thousands of active students taking courses online. Major universities like Stanford, University of Michigan, Yale (and others) offer online courses because it helps them reach more perspective students and is good for their brand.
But what it all boils down to is one thing: completion rates.
Truth be told, completion rates are quite dismal for online courses. If an in-person course had the same completion rates as online courses typical do then you wouldn’t see that course offered very long. No university would be able to survive the negative connotations of extremely low completion rates
Yet this is exactly the situation for online courses. The numbers shine light on the ugly truth of online courses.
Online courses seem to be overlooking this important statistic, instead focusing on metrics like enrollment numbers. In the context of MOOCs, their focus is on driving traffic to the site. The more people on the site the more valuable their web property.
Completion data is a real “black eye” for the e-learning world. We need to better understand the reason for drop-off so that the course content can be modified to help combat the issue. Of course, this is easier said than done.
So yes, while I do maintain that online course afford people an educational opportunity that has never been possible before, I do think we need to be realistic in how effective it is. Sure, it’s good, but it can be (a lot) better.