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Are MOOC’s being marketed to the wrong student demographic?

Mass Open Online Courses

It’s reported that around 80% of MOOC attendees already have a college degree. I can recall my very first encounter with the thought of taking a MOOC at the website. Although the course subject titles were interesting; my curiosity as to the classroom environment, proposed quality of teaching and the challenge of taking a course at an Ivy League level institution was far more fascinating to me. I remember viewing the course introduction video and saying to myself; oh, I can handle this course and immediately my interest or motivation for taking the MOOC course started to wane. I was still interested in learning the subject matter but I could also find more useful things to do with my time. Maybe if I didn’t already have an advanced college degree my motivation would have been more sustained for following through with this MOOC?

The website reported that the MOOC completion rate hovers around 7.5%. However, Kevin Carey the director of Education Policy at the New America Foundation purposes that this statistic is a misrepresentation of MOOC’s as compared to traditional college course completion rates. He comments that “researchers could have taken exactly the same data and issued a report finding that “MOOCs achieve ten-fold increase in course completers for Ivy league class, at zero cost to students. Finally, there’s the matter of scale. Penn informs us that the MOOCs in question have “few active users” and that “few” students persist to the end. Few? It’s true that most of the people who had some contact with Mythology were not active users. It’s also true that the remaining minority of active users constituted 25,000 people, which is more than twice the total number of undergraduates enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. And even though most of the 25,000 didn’t finish, the 1,350 who did represent an order-of-magnitude increase in the number of people who learned Mythology from the same professor the previous year”.

As to the notion that MOOC’s could be marketed to the wrong student demographic is a consideration that I share with Harrison Keller, Vice Provost at the University of Texas-Austin. He suggests that; “it might be more productive for UT-Austin and other institutions offering MOOCs to tailor courses to a specific audience — high school students or working professionals, for example — rather than attempt a one-size-fits-all approach that’s largely based on the format of traditional courses”. In my opinion, high achievers at the high school level are the perfect minds for MOOC course delivery. These students could have no preconceived ideas that may damper their continued excitement for taking a college course at a notable university. In terms of college recruitment, this method could be a fresh approach to increased enrollment of prepared new students to the institution offering the MOOC.


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