MOOCs

Survey: MOOCs Supplement Traditional Higher Ed

A new survey of students enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs) suggests that the courses are supplementing traditional higher education forms and "democratizing learning."

Researchers from Duke University studied "13 free, open-access digital courses offered by Duke using the Coursera platform," according to a news release, and found that the courses "are popular among youngsters, retirees and other non-traditional student populations."

The team analyzed pre-course surveys administered to all students who signed up for a fall 2014 MOOC offered by Duke, looking specifically at responses from 9,000 people younger than 18, older than 65 and those who reported that they had no access to higher education.

Findings of the study included:

  • Students in the younger group often reported taking MOOCs in topics not taught in their schools;
  • Students in the youngest group also reported taking MOOCs to explore different disciplines to help weigh academic and career choices;
  • Those in the over-65 group reported taking MOOCs to pursue lifelong learning, to keep their minds active and to mentor younger students in their own professional field; and
  • Students who said they enrolled in MOOCs because of limited access to higher ed chose them because MOOCs were available despite their financial or mobility limitations.

"The idea was trying to get a better handle on individuals who were underserved, because so much of the popular press has focused on highly educated, white (for the most part), upper middle class folks taking Coursera courses," said Lorrie Schmid, the lead researcher on the study, in a prepared statement. "We wanted to get a sense of these other groups and how they might be approaching, in similar or different ways, these types of classes."

"The theme that was most pronounced was that Coursera classes were supplementing or enhancing their education that they were getting from other either K-12 or higher education formal courses," added Schmid.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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