Online Communities Can Get MOOCs Back On Course

Christina Balotescu

January 13, 2014

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

2014 has arrived, and with it, a flurry of discussion over Massive Online Open Courses and their effectiveness. 2012 sparked the MOOC revolution, and 2013 brought a reality check. With the help of online communities for higher education, 2014 can be the year that open courses for all truly flourish.

Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs were the buzzword of 2012. Several major names kicked off, including EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy. The idea behind these free online courses was affordable education for all. No longer would one’s education be limited by the depth of one’s pocketbook. Now everyone with access to the internet could obtain an education…or at least that was the noble thought.

But if 2012 brought the MOOC revolution, 2013 brought us back to a more grounded perspective. Online courses offered no accountability. Signing up was simple, quick and free, and as a result, many registrants didn’t even attend. Of those that did attend the first class, completion and graduation rates were extremely low, on average 4%. Classes with thousands of students made professors inaccessible, and many registrants felt they couldn’t get the help they needed. Others felt that they weren’t forming the social connections they’d hoped for, another factor in encouraging attendance. Said Tracy Wheeler, an education consultant taking several MOOCs, “I’m a very social person. There were no people; there was no professor. In a sense you’re just learning in this void. … I would come away from my computer despondent and feeling really reduced somehow.”

Online communities for MOOC students could solve all this. Online communities allow students and alumni to search for others near them on a student map, join groups and attend events, email other course-takers, and more, all in an environment specifically created by the university. Students can use the group functionality to discuss certain course topics, the map functionality to form local study groups, and the event feature to host networking meet-ups. Professors can learn from the community as well, and better tailor class based on group questions and discussions.  A live community that is driven by an online community is critical in the world of online education.

Online communities allow online students to build the connections they are otherwise missing. As Kimberly Spillman, a software engineer that started taking 7 MOOCs but only finished 3 said, “The ones I have study groups with people, those are the ones I finish.” The networks established through these communities can help students to secure better jobs, and feel more fulfilled. Taking that one step further, studies have shown that 80% of people participate in online communities to help others. By providing an online community you can allow your constituents to help one another, build accountability, elevate test scores, and make your online courses more effective. If you’re spending the money to produce these classes, you want results. Online communities can help get you there.

To learn more about how 360Alumni can build your student and alumni communities both online and off, call (424) 888-0360 or schedule a demo today !

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