Online students stuck with a Buddhism MOOC because they truly wanted to learn…

The Death of MOOCs Has Been Greatly ExaggeratedI came across an article from Slate today, The Death of MOOCs Has Been Greatly Exaggerated by Robert Wright. He wanted to share that his MOOC, titled Buddhism and Modern Psychology, is wrapping up successfully on Coursera. He then shared that he believes that the “impending death of MOOCs—massive open online courses—is greatly exaggerated.” There are many ways to look at this and I do agree… but it depends on how you look at it.

I am sure that Robert would agree that his students are most engaged because they are invested in the content, experiences, etc. MOOCs could be thought of as good books that we set aside and one day actually want to finish. Finishing could be based on the students terms, e.g., going through all of the content, completing all of the assignments, etc. Then even once in a while you get in a MOOC with thousands of others, interact with them, learn with them, and can have a blast of a month.

But yes. The no-credit MOOCs do have low completion rates largely because the learner feels alone and don’t know if it is a good book or not… so they may end up setting it aside… In a pervious posting, I mentioned that We cannot apply traditional measures when evaluating a MOOC!

Yes. Completion rates are low when comparing MOOC to traditional and online classes at a university. The point being is that they are not the same and they shouldn’t be compared. The learner has different expectations for learning when taking a MOOC and so should the institution in terms of what they expect from students. A great comparison to the experience in a MOOC to something else that many of us use and not complete is a newspaper. But the lower completion rates of newspapers don’t cause us to say that they are failing? And who reads their newspaper online now BTW? (I had to make that comparison 🙂

Thanks for your article Robert. Yes! We cannot apply traditional measures when evaluating a MOOC.


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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5 Responses to Online students stuck with a Buddhism MOOC because they truly wanted to learn…

  1. Ryan Tracey says:

    To me, this is simply a manifistation of formal vs informal learning. If the course is a “must do”, then yes the completion rate matters. If it’s a “nice to do”, the completion rate is a moot point.

    • DaveHallmon says:

      I couldn’t agree more. But what if we could grab the learners interest in formal learning? Then the stars would align and all would be right with the world 🙂

  2. Ryan Tracey says:

    Indeed, pro-informal learning is not the same as anti-formal learning! Both are essential 🙂

  3. Sarah Porter says:

    I am just about to complete the Buddhism MOOC after having started but not completed a couple of other MOOCs previously. Following this MOOC has been a very rewarding experience. I attribute this to the quality of the teaching. the Professor has managed to bring together two seemingly diverse worlds – evolutionary psychology and Buddhist practice – in a way that is genuinely exciting and important. He has given his own very personal and authentic flavour to this – who could fail to be engaged when a teacher uses his pet dogs to illustrate the path to enlightenment?? The class assignments have also been really well thought-through to make them challenging but not overwhelming, and with a peer assessment element that was also really rewarding rather than off-putting. As an e learning professional, I have learned a lot from the experience – the most important point being that, in this case, success really stems from the knowledge and commitment of the teacher.

    • DaveHallmon says:

      Hi Sarah. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with the Buddhism MOOC. I am very interested to hear how you found my blog in the first place but also continue conversations about how this MOOC was different than others you have taken in the past. It sounds like @robertwrighter was a very engaging instructor. What makes a teacher successful in an online classroom is no different than a face-to-face classroom. Content expertise, attentiveness to students, timely responses to student questions, and being organized are just a few of the important qualifications of a successful teacher regardless of mediums and methods.

      I am going to try to get in the course and see if I can check out some of those path to enlightenment videos where @robertwrighter uses his dogs 🙂 Do you happen to have a YouTube link?

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