How Have MOOCs Impacted Approaches to Student Learning? #DLNchat

Digital Learning in Higher Ed

How Have MOOCs Impacted Approaches to Student Learning? #DLNchat

By Michael Sano     Apr 12, 2018

How Have MOOCs Impacted Approaches to Student Learning? #DLNchat

Has the MOOC revolution come and gone? Or will the principles of the MOOC movement continue to influence higher ed? On Tuesday, April 10 the #DLNchat community got together to discuss and debate: How Have MOOCs Impacted Approaches to Student Learning? The conversation was guided by special guest Dhawal Shah, founder of Class Central.

“How many MOOCs have you signed up for and how many have you taken?” was the question first posed to the #DLNchat community by Aneesa Davenport, social media and analytics manager for EdSurge. Many admitted their completion rates were unimpressive, which may be representative for MOOC users overall. As Deirdre Woods shared, such rates “are generally in the range of 5-25% for non-credit classes.”

One thing MOOCs may have taught us is that we need to challenge our measurements of student success across different platforms and education settings. For example, Shah said that we shouldn’t try to measure student success in a MOOC the same way we do in a traditional classroom. “Instead of looking at completion rates, we should find out from learners whether a course met their needs. If you learned what you needed to know by reading one chapter of a book, did you ‘fail’ at reading it?”

Cali Morrison pondered how many students are using MOOCs to supplement traditional instruction. Shah shared that his company, Class Central, found that almost half of the MOOC-takers they surveyed found some tangible benefit to their learning experience whether they completed the course or not. Examples included switching jobs or achieving better performance in certain areas. In a related article for EdSurge last year, columnist Amy Ahearn made a different argument in favor of looking beyond MOOC completions rates: “For a growing number of organizations, MOOCs have become a new way to identify talent.”

Register now for the EdSurge webinar, How Analytics Can Support Student Success in Higher Ed, April 25, 2018 at 12 pm PT | 3 pm ET. Sponsored by

#DLNchat-ters agreed that MOOC completion should not be the only metric to indicate student success. However, Rolin Moe reminded us, “Writing off retention because we can't know the path of all learners negates the potential for learning objects to inspire further engagement. MOOCs are an opportunity to help learners fall in love with things they don't yet know they love. Every space to engage fits that bill. If we are writing off losing 4/5 of students, we are ignoring the places we failed to increase engagement and inspire, too.”

MOOCs have allowed academic institutions to reach more people, and they have also enabled other organizations to offer learning experiences to broad audiences. Has this ease of (often free) access affected student attitudes toward the cost and value of learning? Lisa McIntyre-Hite believes “students are more likely to expect free content,” but associating MOOCs with traditional universities “adds value by curating the personalized learning journey. Content is no longer king.” Yes, Cali Morrison agreed and added, “The throne is held by context." Students might expect to get learning content for free much in the same way they expect to get other digital content, like news and music, for free, shared Christa Morrison. She posits, however, that students see the value in paying for a holistic learning experience that can be supported by traditional higher ed institutions.

Perceived value depends on many factors, not least of which are the instructor and how the course is designed. Yin Wah Kreher and other #DLNchat-ters referenced Barbara Oakley, one of the most popular MOOC professors ever who teaches the course Learning How to Learn. What has made her so successful? Shah believes that for Oakley and others not in “a traditional academic environment, publishing doesn’t matter in the MOOC world. In MOOCs it’s all about teaching. Effective professors are those who are passionate about their material, are able to inspire students, organize their material well, and design good assessments.”

Instructional design elements “have definitely paired well with, and influenced, adaptive/automated options. Like a fine complementary wine/cheese combo,” Taylor Kendal shared after the chat.

Will MOOCs continue to affect the way that learning experiences are designed and executed? Woods thinks so: “The MOOC movement will continue to impact higher ed: Better use of lecture time, flexibility in course delivery, innovative online content and new forms of credentials.”

Woods also shared that impact on microcredentials “is where I think MOOCs have true transformational impact on campus. We would have never see all the different credential options without them.”

The hype over MOOCs may have died down, but the #DLNchat community agreed MOOCs are very much alive and here to stay—though they may change over time. Late chimer D. Christopher Brooks made this analogy: “MOOCs have neither died nor revolutionized higher ed. They are to higher ed what microwaves are to kitchens… Microwaves were promised to revolutionize the modern kitchen, but instead became useful tools for very specific tasks & occupy a small amount of space.” MOOCs, what will they cook up next?

Tweet us your thoughts and don’t forget the hashtag #DLNchat. For other topics, you can also check out our index of past #DLNchats. Join the Digital Learning Network to stay up to date on all events and the latest news for higher ed digital learning leaders! RSVP for How Can Alternative Assignments Effectively Assess Student Learning on Tuesday, April 10 at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET to get reminders beforehand.#DLNchat is co-hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, WCET and Tyton Partners.


More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up