New UK MOOC Course Numbers Plateau After Fast Growth


Findings from a recently released study by e-learning resource website suggests a significant drop in number of new MOOCs offered by universities in the UK.

The study, UK MOOC Report 2016: An Insight into MOOCs Provided by UK Institutions, not only discovered a dramatic decline in the number of new MOOCs offered between 2013 and 2014, but also that MOOCs offered in the UK make up a very small number of the global MOOC market. It also found that smaller enrollment numbers and shorter courses result in higher completion rates.

According to the report, MOOCs first began to be offered in the UK on a large scale in 2013.  The first universities to offer the courses were The University of Edinburgh and The University of London with courses available on the US-based platform Coursera.  The majority of those courses were introduced in 2014, which is also the year that more MOOCs were introduced from UK-based institutions than any year previously.

In addition, an increase in the number of MOOCs offered by UK universities reaching close to 500% was observed in 2014 when compared with data from 2013.  However, the number of new MOOCs saw a decline of 20% in 2015.

In terms of student enrollment, the highest average number of enrolled students per course was seen in 2013.  Those numbers dropped by 44% in 2014 and then rose slightly in 2015.

Study authors also looked at the various platforms running the courses, finding that 77% of the MOOCs were delivered through the UK-based FutureLearn, while 19% were on Coursera.  Courses running on Coursera typically attracted twice as many students as those found on FutureLearn, although course completion rates were 50% higher for MOOCs delivered through FutureLearn than they were for courses found on Coursera.

The most popular courses were found to be in the areas of Education, Personal Development, Computer Science and Humanities.  Meanwhile, Physical Science & Engineering & Life Science courses were the least popular.  Interestingly, the highest completion rates were found among courses in areas including Life Sciences, Humanities and Education.

In terms of student enrollment and completion rates, two-week courses that required around 12 hours of coursework held the highest percentages in these two areas.

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The study used data from 30 universities and institutions based in the UK which offered at least one MOOC between February 2012 and November 2015.  The goal of the report was to make discoveries concerning student interest in MOOCs, course completion rates, and the impact of particular variables such as course length and workload on student enrollment and completion rates.  In addition, the study observed MOOC growth within the UK in comparison to the global MOOC market.

In all, 182 scheduled MOOCs were observed between February 2012 and November 2015, offered at 30 universities and institutions across five different platforms.