A recent overview of studies on Massive Open Online Courses, also known as MOOCs, explores how they are used by both independent students and in the classroom, suggesting that more discussion and instructor feedback may increase both learning outcomes and student satisfaction.
The paper discusses the emerging trends in MOOCs as stand-alone online courses, the ways that MOOCs are integrated in traditional classrooms, the effectiveness of combining MOOCs with face-to-face classes, and how to improve blended learning.
There are many benefits to "blended" courses that combine traditional, face-to-face learning with MOOCs, including improving outcomes and reducing costs.
One of the key problems with MOOCs is the dismal completion rate, which for most courses is less than 10% of the students enrolled. However, Stephen Downes notes that people often engage in MOOCs to meet a specific goal or to complete a specific action, and therefore a student may consider the course a successful learning experience without finishing the course. In one study, students reported that they had multiple reasons to take these online classes, and many of these reasons did not rely on expectations of completion or traditional achievement.
The paper also discusses multiple models of blended learning that have been studied.
One variation on blended learning, called "wrapped" courses, integrate the MOOC with the course's schedule, and assignments are screenshotted and submitted to the instructor. Another model involved students signing up for an MOOC of their own choosing and then using a social mobile learning management system to connect with others in their class. In a third study, students were offered college preparatory MOOCs, and matriculated students did much better than non-matriculated students in terms of math problems submitted and minutes of video watched.
The overview found that MOOCs that were incorporated into traditional classrooms led to a positive impact on student learning outcomes, with no evidence of negative effects for any racial, socio-eceonomic, or gender subgroups. However, it did not always lead to student satisfaction with instructor feedback, leading to limited student participation in discussion forums.
The author of the overview suggests that MOOCs can be used as learning resources and can provide students with two points of view on the same subject matter. However, MOOCs are often not designed for traditional classrooms and therefore do not always mesh well. She recommends that MOOC providers should consider making their courseware more modular and expanding their licensing to allow their resources to be used in traditional classrooms.
Provers can also improve discussion forums by encouraging community among the MOOC's students, connecting with other similar courses, and forming a network allowing students to communicate with each other.
According to the paper's conclusion:
The preliminary findings in the reviewed blended MOOCs include: Students in blended MOOCs in traditional classrooms performed almost equal or slightly better than students in only face-to-face class environment, no significant evidence of negative effects for any subgroups in the hybrid model, lower levels of student satisfaction, and limited participation in discussion forums provided by MOOCs. MOOCs, in general, have the potential to offer excellent resource materials in the form of video lectures, quizzes, and assignments, though there are challenges in synchronizing them with in-class traditional courses and repurposing MOOCs with on-campus LMS and policies.
The study, entitled "Effectiveness of Integrating MOOCs in Traditional Classrooms for Undergraduate Students," was published by Maria Joseph Israel of the University of San Francisco in the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.
The full text can be found at the IRRODL website.