Education

How MOOCs beat campuses in GPAs & diversity (in 3 graphs)

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Image Credit: Flickr User ToastyKen

Some good news for massively open online courses (MOOCs) in business topics: Student GPAs are slightly higher, and MOOCs are more likely to reach students in developing countries.

Overall, online courses — and especially massive online courses (MOOCS) — have a mixed record. Providing the option to learn anywhere at any time boosts community college students’ likelihood of transferring to a four-year college, but the pass rate is lower.

It’s especially bad for minorities and underprivileged groups, which typically don’t have the same motivational support structure to help them through the challenges of remote learning.

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Now, early reports from two big experiments in online business courses are showing cautiously optimistic signs.

First, Georgia Tech is getting interesting results with an experiment in ultra-low cost courses produced in partnership with startup Udacity. According to Inside Higher Ed, when comparing four courses offered in both face-to-face format and online formats, students narrowly outmatched their traditional counterparts.

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One Reddit user who spoke to Higher Ed on the condition on anonymity praised the online courses, saying, “It is absolutely, immediately, and unquestionably clear that it is in a league of its own.”

So far, 93 percent of students say they’d recommend the courses, and school applications are up 30 percent.

On the diversity front, MOOC enrollees in the University of Pennsylvania’s elite Wharton business school are nearly twice as likely to be underrepresented minorities.

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And, they’re three times more likely to come from “other developing nations”.

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Of course, these MOOCs are free, and the students don’t benefit from any of the name recognition from holding a degree. It is also unclear whether the students actually benefit from anything they learn once they take their new knowledge into the job market. So, much more research needs to be done on how effective these courses ultimately are, both from Penn and Georgia tech.

Nevertheless, these partnerships and early results are promising.