It has been over a decade since MIT’s open courseware initiative and two years since the foundation of the non-profit ‘EdX’ and For Profit ‘Coursera’. We are past the fear of the MOOC damaging university enrolment. We are over the academia hype around the MOOC. And we are well past the stories and well wishing of providing a leading university education to the world for free through the MOOC. MOOCs have begun, statistics are in and dreams should be shattered… but they aren’t.

A 2013 Survey of Coursera students enrolled in “Computational Investing” showed that only 4.5% of enrolled students actually completed the course. Statistics that for any conventional subject would render it cancelled immediately and never to be spoke of again. Despite this, many academic groups are still interesting in pursuing the MOOC.

Interestingly, of those who completed the course 46.9% had already completed a masters degree.

Similar Statistics were uncovered in the University of Pennsylvania study ‘The MOOC Phenomenon: Who Takes Massive Open Online Courses and Why?’  who found that students of Coursera were older, disproportionately male and had previously completed higher education.
These findings, suggest that MOOCs are currently catering predominantly to educated academics who want to broaden their knowledge.

The high number of Masters applicants in MOOCs may be a reflection of the low familiarity with MOOCs outside of academic circles. A May 2013 survey reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education found that only 26% of a nationwide (US) Sample were familiar with MOOCs.

While I’m clearly not enchanted by the concept of the MOOC, I believe they are still young and have room to grow and evolve into a more effective method of education. Perhaps once MOOCs penetrate into mainstream society we may see a new direction for them and perhaps some more successes.


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