A few loose ends on MOOC drop-out and grouping

A few ongoing discussions in the margins of the MOOC phenomenon have drawn my attention, and the following blog post is a short write-up on a few topics that have spent too much time in my draft drawer: drop-out as a measurement of MOOC success (bad idea), grouping participants in a MOOC (waste of energy).

Uptake vs. drop-out

Is it at all useful to speak of drop-out rate  of MOOCs, when enrolling in a MOOC is easier than registering for some newsletters? (Yes, i am talking about you, publicdomainreview.org.) Uptake would be a better word, like Donald Clark says in the following blog post:

Stanford Professor Keith Devlin on his MOOC and why he is not worried about attrition rates:

We shouldn’t think in terms of classic drop-out rates, because the participants are not your average student, says Phil Hill:

Grouping in MOOCs

We all know by now that learning together is much more efficient, right? (Thanks Howard Rheingold, peeragogy.orgconnectedlearning.tv) But why does my heart sink when I’m assigned a group right at the onset of a course? And why doesn’t the whole grouping thing seem to work very well?

FOEMOOC on Coursera shipwrecked itself on the iceberg of the idea “why don’t we ask a few thousand people to organize themselves into groups using a google form/the forum”.

In MIT’s current Media Lab course learning creative learning they grouped participants on the basis of time zones, creating separate mailing lists for every group. They closed off enrollment at a certain date, although all course contents are freely available to anybody. The closing of enrollment seems to have functioned mainly as a way to be able to divide people into groups. As a result some people feel left out, because they think they are missing out on something because they didn’t make the enrollment deadline (and they decide to participate “next time”, instead of jumping in anyway, which is a loss for the learning community). A second result is that there are quite a few silent groups with little to no interaction, possibly because people enrolled without the intention of being active participants. But people are re-clustering, finding new groups.
A group of about 25 people might be a good size of unit for working together on an assignment, but for sharing resources and ideas, a much larger group seems (to me) to be more fertile. Luckily, there is a lively central Google+ community with (now) 10271 members.

The answer to the grouping problem must in my humble opinion be found in the distinction between collaboration and cooperation that George Siemens makes here: Group work advice for MOOC providers: http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2013/03/10/group-work-advice-for-mooc-providers/

More on the topic:

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